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 3 Student – Christopher Causer.
When you signed up for the WSET Level 3 in Wines and Spirits what did you want to have happen?
First, I expected to have a really good time – who can resist tasting 18 wines a day and learning some geography, meteorology, chemistry and horticulture? I also thought it would be a good mixed group of students, of all ages, which turned out to be the case. We were a very happy bunch! I had assumed the course was mainly about wine regions and tasting, so it was exciting to find out that there is a good deal of horticulture (selection of vines, pruning techniques, diseases and how to prevent them). Likewise, you need to learn about climate and local weather patterns – as a sailor I have passed a Yachtmaster meteorology exam so it was good to brush off the met. learning and apply it. Winemaking is all about chemistry, so you need to understand the basic reactions taking place in the vat – and how to slow them down, speed them up or prevent them!
Each wine region becomes more interesting as you try to detect the climate/weather effect and the soil/terroir/altitude effects – eg the difference between two Malbecs from Argentina, with grapes grown at different altitudes, or an NZ pinot noir from Otago compared with one from near the coast.
I now have a keen wish to go and see some of these places. Having read all about the soil, vine types and pruning methods, it would be wonderful to have a look on site – and of course sample the local wines. I have also noticed that we have become a bit more adventurous in buying wine for home consumption – recently I bought some Wine Society wines from small growers in Portugal and Spain just because the grapes were rare or unknown varieties (to us, that is!). I was tasting one of the Portuguese reds and wondering why it reminded me of port … We have discovered some very food friendly wines from Spain and Portugal (eg Monastrell from Jumilla) which are better value – because more interesting – than generic wines from Chile or Australia. For white wines the Wine Society now stock some interesting IGP blends from two or more French regions, such as viognier and sauvignon blanc. My daughter has a long break from Uni (and a good palate – she is working her way through the house wines at her college) so perhaps we will make a trip to some out of the way places in Spain and Portugal. I don’t know either country except for the business centres of Madrid and Barcelona. I have sailed all the way south from La Coruna to Gibraltar but we never touched dry land in Portugal!
What would you say to someone considering, but not sure about, signing up for the Level 3 course?
I would say go for it, assuming you have a reasonable starting point. In other words, an understanding of different grape varieties and regions and the effects of climate and altitude. You don’t need to know all about everything or be able to blind taste the difference between a Chablis from 2013 and 2014! The group I was part of were great fun from all sorts of backgrounds – ‘professionals’ from bars and restaurants and ‘amateurs’ with years of experience – and we all got on famously and learned a lot.
If you’re interested in signing up for a WSET Level 3 Award in Wines and Spirits – check out our Events page for the latest dates.