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 2 and 3 Student – James Watson.
When you signed up for the WSET Level 3 Award in Wines and Spirits what did you want to have happen?
I’ve had a keen interest in wine for a long time and wanted to learn more, which is why I took the WSET level 2 course a couple of years ago. This course was great and gave me a fantastic foundation in the world of wines – I learnt an awful lot and tried many new wines. However, I was really keen to take things further, so when the opportunity to take the Level 3 course can along I jumped on it. I knew it would be a big commitment, but there’s nothing better than spending time learning and studying something that you enjoy. The two key things that I wanted to get from the course was to expand my knowledge of specific wines – what did I like, what didn’t I like, and to understand more about what was good and what wasn’t so good to drink. I can definitely say, those aims were met and surpassed by the Level 3 course.
I suppose on reflection I wasn’t really looking to expand the list of wines that I knew that I liked, I really wanted to understand what it was about those wines that lead me to like them, and what linked them all together. I really did learn that – be it grape, climate, production method, intended style, the food that you’re eating with it – having completed the course I feel that I understand wine, rather than just know it. I realise I still have a lot to learn, but I feel that I have already come a long way.
Having completed the course, I can confidently talk about wine. I feel that I could offer sound advice and recommendations to someone, I would know what wine would work with a meal, I understand the drivers behind the cost of a bottle of wine and , most importantly I know what to look for if I’m looking for a wine for myself. I’m really looking forward to making use of my broader knowledge and greater understanding.
I think the thing that I most enjoyed about the course was the breadth of content and the engaging way that Erica delivered it – I was very happy to have been given the opportunity to learn so much. I also think the class dynamic was great – I learnt a lot from the others on the course, from their experiences and opinions. I think the opportunity to meet and work with others was really invaluable, which is something that I would have missed out on if I have taken a distance learning course. It also goes without saying, I enjoyed tasting the wines.
I’ve always enjoyed drinking wine, but at home I only open one bottle at a time. Erica’s course offered a fantastic chance to compare and contrast wines – I feel that I can clearly describe the difference between a £10 bottle of wine and a £20 bottle now, before the course I would not have been able to do that. In some respects that wasn’t a great thing, since now I’m always leaning towards the £20 bottles rather than the £10 – who was it what said “Life’s too short to drink bad wine”?
If someone had an interest in wine and wanted to expand their knowledge and understanding, I would whole heartily recommend a WSET course to them. It’s not a small undertaking and you need to be prepared to put in the time, but for a keen armature like me, it was an entirely rewarding experience.
Update from James: March 2016
It is a year since your interview, how have things changed for you since attaining your WSET Level 3 Award in Wines and Spirits?
Since completing the WSET Level 3 course with Enjoy Discovering Wine, I have taken every opportunity that I have had to further expand my knowledge and experience of wine. I am far more adventurous than I ever have been and love to try new wines. I’m really broadening my tasting experience and am finding some really great, but inexpensive wines. I’m also finding that I can pair wines with food quite successfully – this is something that I felt was a bit of a dark art before the Level 3 course, but not only do I understand the theory, I can (usually) apply it effectively. This is something that I hope to develop further and have signed up to an Enjoy Discovering Wine Food & Wine pairing lunch later this year.
About 6 months ago, I spent an evening at The Black Bottle, Winchester. This is a somewhat quirky wine bar that uses dispensing machines to allow customers to buy small quantities of a broad variety of different wines. I had a great time there and would recommend it to anyone, however the part of the evening that was most memorable was the 20 minute conversation that I had with the owner about the wines that he had selected to make available that evening. I remember this conversation because I had just as much to say about the wines that were and were not available as he did – it really struck me than that I have managed to build up a very good working knowledge of wine and can hold my own with a professional.
So, what’s next for you James?
I am considering setting up a small ‘hobby’ business running wine tastings for groups of people, either in their home, at a venue, or as corporate entertainment. I would do this in my spare time, for the enjoyment of sharing what I have learnt with others, but in the long term, I would like to be able to make a living doing something like this. It really would be taking something that I enjoy and making a career out of it.
I have also been looking at opportunities to carry on studying with the WSET. I would love to move on to the Level 4 diploma course, however this is too much of a commitment to take on at the same time as my full time job. Perhaps this is something for the future.