Daniel ZawitowskiEach month Erica interviews one of Enjoy Discovering Wine’s students’, this month’s interview is with former WSET Level 2 student – Daniel Zawitowski.

When you joined the WSET Level 2 in Wines and Spirits what did you want to happen?

When I signed up for the WSET Level 2 Award in Wines and Spirits the most important thing for me was to pass the exam and I hoped that this course would prepare me properly. It did just that because I achieved a distinction. Also, I wanted to gain more knowledge which is necessary in my current workplace, Grayshott Wine Centre, where I am working as a sales assistant. One of my main duties is recommending products to the customers which was for me, much more difficult before I enrolled for the WSET Level 2. Every day when I was looking at the bottles on the shelves I was wondering, because I had never tasted it before: “what is the taste of Puligny-Montrachet or Chateauneuf-du-Pape AC etc.” I hoped that during the WSET Level 2 course I would have the opportunity to do it and I must admit that this course really did meet my demands.

The WSET strongly promotes tasting wine during the course to underline the theoretical knowledge and so I was positively surprised that during the course we had an opportunity to taste so many wines. As I remember we tasted around 40 different bottles and some of them were really quite expensive, so thankfully the tasting with theory went according to plan.

How have you used your WSET Level 2 in Wines and Spirits since finishing the course?

My work in the wine shop is much more efficient since I have completed my WSET Level 2 Award in Wine and Spirits. Sometimes customers ask for advice, for example: which wine they should choose for a party; how to pair some wine with a meal; and how does a Bordeaux from Pomerol and from Margaux taste different? Now I am well prepared to give to them the correct answers, the sales are increasing, my employer is happier, my customers feel satisfied and I have more personal satisfaction too.

You have an interesting history with wines and spirits, would you tell us about your family background please?

Enjoy Discovering Wine

Daniel’s Grandfather (second from right wearing the high boots) and his Distillery team in 1935

The reason why wines and spirits are one of my life’s passions is because most of my family from Poland were related with alcohol production in the past. My grandfather Stanislaw owned a distillery before World War II and my family strongly believe that he survived the War because the demand for alcohol production was very high, as alcohol was a highly desirable product during the hard times of war; moreover my grandfather was the only person in the area who was adequately educated in this kind of profession. I will give you an example: when WWII started in September 1939 and the local people heard that German soldiers were very close, my grandfather ran out from the distillery and into the hills to see how close they were. Unfortunately he encountered German troops and after a few minutes he was standing against the wall and was waiting for his execution. Thankfully one of the German soldiers recognized him because some of the Germans were living in the village and persuaded his commander that Mr Stanislaw was a distillery director and might be useful. If things had gone in the opposite direction my generation wouldn’t exist at all.

After the war communists took away the distillery from my grandfather but they couldn’t find any one suitable enough to replace him and so they left him as the distillery director but he was no longer the owner of the building according to the new law.

My grandfather died in 1986 and his son Tadeusz (my uncle and godfather) has been managing alcohol production since this time. When I was a small boy, I would visit the old distillery from time to time and I remember very well the old equipment, the smell of the old cooper stills, and specific smells of mash etc…

What would you say to someone thinking of studying for the WSET Level 2 qualification?

I would recommend the WSET Level 2 course to anyone who treats wine as a life passion and/or is thinking about pursuing a career in the wines and spirits industry. I would like to advise everyone who is planning to enrol on a WSET Level 2 course to study the WSET textbook “Behind the label” very carefully and as long as it is necessary because it depends on personal ability to learn. This book contains lots of topics to remember and personally I have to admit that I spent not 20 but 40 hours studying this book to pass my exam with distinction.


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