to top

WSET Diploma – Unit 3 – Week 1

Dear Diary,

Like some sort of academic pregnancy, I will subject the next 9 months of my life to some form of patient growing of what is hopefully my knowledge of wine. And I will subsequently hope that, somewhere, my diploma will be birthed out of a printer in the UK by some person whose accent sounds equally as charming as it is foreign – yet familiar, like fusion cuisine or a fucked up awesome bottle of sparkling Jura.

I can feel it already – I won’t have time to write to you about people for whom my heart beats, and instead I’ll be on my knees begging the Gods to reveal to me why I can’t tell the difference between a Grecian Xinomavro and a Piedmontese Nebbiolo. While I’m sure the answer is as elegant and simple as “because you suck”, I’ll be doing shots of really cheap vodka and eating multiple grilled cheese sandwiches just to soften this alcoholic Tolkienesque journey.

I’m thirsty (for wine not for knowledge) so #bye,



This is it – the granddaddy of all 6 WSET diploma units. Unit 3. The unit that literally makes people actually hate wine and tear their hair out (luckily I have none on my head); it’s so large that it lasts two semesters (unlike the other units) and the curriculum is so ridiculously large that it almost makes no sense. I’d like to think that studying for my sommelier certification was some sort of primer. That being said, it’s almost mind-blowing to know that anything like the Master of Wine certification, the Master Sommelier certification, and the Advanced Sommelier certification, are definitely all harder than this.

I’ve completed the other units. Here’s a concise summary, like that 30-second recap at the beginning of the new episode of Survivor or the Real Housewives of Wisconsin or whatever you’re into:
Unit 2 – Vinification and Viniculture (i.e. science, i.e. yes)
Unit 1 – Business of Wine (i.e. essays, i.e. ugh)
Unit 4 – Spirits (more Cocktail and less Paranormal Activity)
Unit 5 – Sparkling Wine (e.g. “What maturation methods are used to produce the sparkling wine that this rich kid is pouring all over his gold Rolex?”)
Unit 6 – Fortified Wine (i.e. “How To Make Friends With Wine Nerds: Part 1”)

Of what does unit 3 comprise? THE REST OF THE WINE IN THE WORLD.


Including Switzerland, Japan, and Mexico. And then I’ll have to write an exam on ALL OF THE WINE, in June.

winebooksandbeerzThe written portion of the exam involves answering 5 essay questions, which seems simple enough. The problem is that there are countless topics to cover, so even if you aim to pass, you still need to know a ton. It’s like needing to learn numbers 1 to 10000, but they’re randomly picking out 43, 3994, 9412, 69, and 492. Like, you need to know your shit.

The tasting portion involves tasting 12 wines blind, in groups of 3, and then basically writing mini-essays on each one. It’s a light version of what you’d have to do for the Master of Wine, if you could imagine. (The MW version not only goes more into depth, but you have to taste *36* wines blind in groups of *12* each.)

It simultaneously makes sense and doesn’t make sense that they would smush this into one unit instead of splitting it up. Alas – I will make every attempt to remind myself why I like wine, because when it came time for other students to do the third unit, it almost stressed me out just seeing them and anticipating the enormity of it all.

At the same time I’m glad I feel that I should be stressed, because it’s as if I have more motivation and passion to finish this compared to a number of banal university courses I’ve also subjected myself to, where I really just didn’t give a damn. In one exam – I’m sure it was some kind of algorithms or statistics class – I just wrote about the types of Cabernet Sauvignon because I didn’t even know how to begin answering the question. My hope is that I entertained the marker, at least.

The first class of Unit 3 was, well, the first class. Our books hadn’t arrived yet, much to my shallow disappointment, but we went over the syllabus, some study guides, and several necessary warnings that our lives and souls would descend into deep pits of darkness. Or something like that.

As per usual we tasted wine, and all blind. Three whites and three reds. The first of the whites was a Bordelais Sauvignon Blanc I had originally pegged as a Pinot Grigio until I came back to it; the second was a South African Chenin Blanc I had thought was some weird Chardonnay even after having had that particular wine before; and the third was a pillowy Alsatian Gewurztraminer which I had to read my notes out for. There’s something weirdly incredible about being given three glasses of wine whose colours look almost identical, and then, just upon smelling them, the drastically different personalities are revealed. I’m sure there’s a drab after-school special about people in there somewhere.

2011 Château Grand Renom Bordeaux Blanc
2013 Bellingham “The Bernard Series” Chenin Blanc
2012 Domaine Zind Humbrecht Gewurztraminer

Reds were tougher. The first was a cru Beaujolais which I had thought was an Italian Barbera (and so did the classmate who read out his notes); the second was a 12-year-old Rioja Reserva which I thought was a 7-year-old Sangiovese (and so did the classmate who read out her notes); and the third was a Chilean Syrah-based blend, which I thought was an Hermitage, which is virtually Syrah, anyways.

2012 Maison des Bulliats Régnié
2002 Lopez de Heredia “Vina Tondonia” Reserva
2011 Emiliana “Coyam”


DipWSET, Certified Sommelier, garbage person.

%d bloggers like this: