Everything you need to know about the WSET’s new qualifications

The Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET), has revised its qualifications programme to give those with a passion for spirits a more focused education.

The WSET, the largest global provider of wine and spirits qualification, announced it will launch the WSET Level 3 Award in spirits next year, with aspiring students able to enrol from 1 August 2019. This will run alongside the WSET’s original Level 3 Award in wines.

The WSET Level 2 Award in Wines and Spirits, and the WSET Level 4 Diploma in Wines and Spirits have also undergone thorough review, resulting in new qualifications exclusively focusing on wines which will be rolled next year.

The new, wine-centric courses will be accompanied by “an enhanced, updated specification and learning materials,” according to the institution.

WSET chief executive, Ian Harris, said: “WSET has provided best-in-class education and qualifications to drinks professionals and enthusiasts for 49 years. We continually work to ensure that our qualifications remain current and job-relevant, equipping students with the skills and expertise they need.

“Extensive consultation with key industry stakeholders indicated a clear demand for specialist product education in the categories of wine, spirits and sake; our newly updated suite of qualifications directly addresses this demand, completing the separation of our products into three distinct subject-matter streams.”

The WSET is considered an important stepping stone for many entering the drinks industry, with past corporate partners including wine merchants Berry Bros & Rudd and Oddbins, UK bartending school Shaker, cruise-liner Cunard, and Big Four retailer Sainsbury’s. In the last academic year, more than 85,000 candidates sat a WSET exam at any level in over 70 countries, in 19 languages worldwide.

Currently, the Level 2, 3, and Diploma courses incorporate a small section towards the end of their programmes dedicated to spirits education, while wine appreciation makes up the vast majority of the curriculum for all three.

With a new, higher qualification for whiskey, gin and Asian spirits like Baiju, the WSET hopes candidates will be able to choose the course that’s most relevant to them, wherever they are in the world.

WSET Level 3 in Spirits

The new qualification, with course material designed by the WSET’s product development manager on its spirits arm Nicholas King, is open to anyone who has completed the WSET’s spirits-focused level 2 award, and designed to “complement the global growth in spirits and the industry’s demand for advanced level, brand neutral knowledge.”

The new Level 3 will also include a broader spectrum of world spirits than has been covered in the past, including Asian spirits such as Baijiu, Soju and Shochu.

As with other WSET Level 3 qualifications, the exam will include both a blind tasting exam and a written paper comprising multiple-choice and short written answer questions.

 

WSET Level 2 in Wines

Extreme close up of sommelier evaluating red wine in wine glass at tasting.

Unlike in previous years, the WSET Level 2 Award in Wines will focus exclusively on wine knowledge, stripping away the small section devoted to spirits at the end of the curriculum.

Candidates who are interested in the spirits section are encouraged to enrol in either the WSET’s Level 1 or 2 spirits programmes.

 

WSET Level 4 in Wines

Similar to the Level 2 Award, the WSET’s Diploma level will now focus exclusively on wine, replacing the current course which also includes a small discussion of distilled products to instead include a more in-depth coverage of the global wine industry.

The course will also move on more quickly to a section dedicated to Wines of the World, which will enable educators to go into greater depth on New World wines.

The new course will also use “new digital learning materials and dedicated educator resources,” according to a spokesperson.

Karen Douglas, director of global education, said: “The new Diploma in wines has been designed as a market-leading qualification that will set a new global standard for wine education, building on the success of the current Level 4 Diploma in Wines and Spirits.

“The programme will improve the student experience throughout the study and exam cycle, providing them with expert-level product knowledge whilst enabling the development of professional skills key to success in the global wine business.”

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