Each month you can read a WSET student interview with an EDW student to hear what it is like to study with Enjoy Discovering Wine. This month’s WSET interview is with Level 1, 2 and 3 in Wines student and now EDW Educator, Nicky Ashcroft.

Nicky Ashcroft

Nicky Ashcroft

When you signed up for the WSET Level 1 in Wines what did you want to have happen?

WSET student interview—learn about what I like and why

I was hoping to have an interesting day with some like-minded people and to walk away knowing a little more than I knew before – to understand more about what I was buying! Firstly, I was hoping to get to know more about how to taste and what to look for – to be able to better assess the differences between wines. Then secondly, to learn a little more about what I like and why, maybe gaining a little more confidence to step outside those boundaries and try a broader range of wines. To be honest though, not knowing what to expect from my first foray into wine knowledge, my hopes for the day were quite open. I tried a few things that I wouldn’t have tried before (whites mainly as I was very much a robust red kind of girl!) – but I also came away with much more than I’d bargained for, a glimpse of just how vast the world of wine really is and a real thirst to know much more about it.

WSET student interview—booked myself straight onto Level 2

After that, I booked myself straight onto Level 2 and started reading round the subject a bit – beginners’ books and dipping into things like Jancis Robinson’s Wine Course. Having done Level 1, I had a little bit more of an idea what to expect of the course (apart from the homework/study requirements!) so I was excited at the prospect of more in-depth knowledge about regions and what a label might actually be telling me. When the study pack arrived, I read through the book and did the required pre work (spirits video etc) as requested, all of which gave me more of an insight into the course content and what we would be focussing on – but I didn’t realise there would be mock papers and revision work to do in the evenings between each day. That came as somewhat of a surprise but it was definitely needed to help put each day into context and make sure the things we’d covered were cemented in and ready to build on the next day. That really helped to prepare for the exam.

WSET student interview—learning the factors that affect the wine

At Level 2 there is more about how wine is actually made (each stage of the process like fermentation and the temperatures for whites being cooler than for reds etc), about specific regions and their associated grapes (and why they are associated) and the differences between countries, their climates and geography and the effect they have on the wine. How higher altitudes give a cooler environment for the grapes so lengthening their ripening periods, bodies of water reflecting sunlight and warming vineyards and the difference in ‘warmth’ of soils depending on their constituents and water retaining capabilities – all changing how long a grape takes to ripen, how much sugar it will contain versus acid, the colour in the skin and therefore flavours etc – fascinating!

WSET student interview—you had me hooked – so I booked onto Level 3

By the time I finished Level 2 you had me hooked – so I booked onto Level 3 to start as soon as I could. I did the taster day before committing (just in case) which was great for giving an insight into the level of detail that would be required, how exam questions would need to be answered (not just ‘how’ but ‘why’) and how much study would be required – a big jump from Level 2, but by that stage I was up for the challenge! Going from the basic phases of the winemaking process to the more detailed viticultural aspects like canopy management was quite a leap, and there was also quite an expansion in regions, countries and grapes as well as the extra detail required in tasting notes.

WSET student interview—learning to do all of that with some really fabulous wines

The tasting sessions at Level 3 incorporated a lot more detail – learning how to identify where each of the aromas came from – the grape and fermentation process,  processes after fermentation or maturation. Couple that with a finer differentiation in areas like body, tannins and acidity and you can describe a lot more about a wine and see what point in its development it has reached. Learning to do all of that with some really fabulous wines was a great experience.

WSET student interview—made it through both with distinctions

Amazingly I made it through both 2 and 3 with distinctions and without realising it had started my new career path! To carry on any further and start my WSET Diploma, I needed to be part of the industry and use my knowledge so that I didn’t lose it. So, I got a part time job with a company dealing in fabulous vintage ports and wines (vintagewineandport.com) to learn more about that side of the industry and was asked by a truly great educator if I would like to teach for her on some of the Level 2 courses – as I have a background in technical and professional training anyway, that was a fantastic way to couple my experience with my new passion – I couldn’t turn that down (thank you Erica).

WSET student interview—I teach Level 2 for EDW

So, nearly two years down the line from Level 1, I’m very proud to say that I teach Level 2 for EDW – and that was never an expectation at Level 1…


For more student interviews click here

If you are interested in signing up for a course with Enjoy Discovering Wine, please email our Course Administrator.