Each month, Erica interviews one of Enjoy Discovering Wine‘s former WSET student’s and the article is featured here. This month Erica has interviewed former WSET Level 1, 2, and 3 Student – Vanessa Holloway.
When you signed up for the WSET Level 3 Award in Wine and Spirits course what did you want to have happen?
When I signed up for WSET Level 3, I was both excited and nervous! It had been over two years since I completed Level 1 and Level 2 at Adult Education locally and I had harboured a desire to continue the wine journey for quite some time.
When I found Enjoy Discovering Wine offering a course in Winchester it was perfect for me. Having read the Course Specification I realised this Level was a big step up and there was a lot to learn, being a “mature” student would I still be able to absorb all the information and fit in with industry students many years younger! From day one I knew I had made a wise decision to revisit this subject. Erica is an amazing educator; her ability to impart her knowledge in a way that is both inspiring and comprehensible at the level one is learning is the sign of a great teacher and that she is.
The days in class went by in a flash, both fun and tiring, in a good way. My fellow students were a joy to be with. The theory part of the course surprisingly, I loved. Learning about Climates, Soil Types, Geography and the effects on the Style of wines were fascinating and so much of what I had learnt at the lower levels suddenly fell into place.
At WSET Level 3 the wines sampled in class were plentiful and the range of styles so varied it was exciting to sense that I was really beginning to develop a novice palate! When I go to a restaurant now the anticipation is directed more towards the wine list than the food menu and I enjoy experimenting with different grape varieties and countries.
What did I want to have happen? I did not know, but I know now. The course was a wonderful experience, the highlight of 2014 for me, and I know that I will continue to learn this uplifting subject.
From WSET Level 2 to level 3 the course differed in many ways, the amount of tutored study time and self study increased significantly but along with that came a better understanding and enjoyment. Focus still remained on the main grape varieties and regions that I had met at the lower levels, however new varieties and regions were introduced. I tasted many more examples on this course and Erica bought along a fantastic range of wines with varying price brackets and I was fortunate to sample some superior wines.
During the course we tasted around 80 different wines. I became more open to experimentation with the grape varieties that I knew, from countries that I had in the past dismissed. I had no idea that Sauvignon Blanc from Northern Italy could taste so good. It was interesting to be able to distinguish the warmer and cooler climate variations on the same grape. The biggest surprise to me personally was Chardonnay! Chardonnay was a grape I would have never freely entertained, I did not like it! How wrong could I be? I learnt how many styles this grape could produce and recently I pushed the boat out and enjoyed a bottle of Chassagne Montrachet Premier Cru and it was wonderful. The course has helped me to see that there are many countries’ wines and varietals easily accessible and I have no hesitation in trying wines from Greece, Hungary, Croatia, USA to name but a few.
As the course progressed I gained more confidence to express my thoughts on what I found in the tastings, in fact all the class did and we had some good fun, it also confirmed to me that we all taste diversely.
The biggest difference and where I felt things fell into place more was really delving into each of the areas. Geography was not my strong point but I was drawn by the contrasting regions of the world, their individual Climates, Microclimates, Topography and understanding what happens to the style of wine produced and why wine makers make decisions based these conditions. A pattern of sorts was beginning to emerge which I could apply to my studies and helped me to understand better all that I had learnt in Levels One and Two. Level 3 covered so many more aspects and I am continuing to learn these in greater depth and pleasure.
What would you say to someone thinking about ‘studying’ the subject of wine?
I would say to anyone thinking of studying wine that it is truly captivating whether it is for a career or general interest you will be surprised by the magnetism of such a diverse and eye opening discovery. Taking a wine course will give you the tools to know more about what you drink and to be able to confidently order wine that will compliment what you eat. The skills and knowledge learnt on a wine course are enduring and undoubtedly motivates one to keep learning.
Vanessa you have just received your result for the WSET Level 3 Award in Wine & Spirits and passed with Distinction―fantastic, very well done. So what do you want to have happen next?
Thank you! I was so thrilled and genuinely surprised to gain a Distinction. Credit to a brilliant course, a soupcon of stress, and plenty of reading. I am unsure of what happens next. I can’t imagine that one day I may have the confidence to go one step further with WSET however for the moment I am continuing to read my course books and as there is no exam looming I have time to explore Wine Magazines and other Wine related books. Where possible I intend to attend some tastings and generally hold on to what I have learnt and undoubtedly enjoy wine!