This post is long overdue. Its been at least six months since I received my Level 1 in Wine certificate from the WSET, and six and a half months since I've been far more confident with wine lists. Up until that day I showed up for the first of three evening classes in London Bridge, I knew next to nothing about wine lists.
I maintain this isn't entirely my fault. Knowledge of wine is built up over time, and I'm still in the "Early Twenties" category. Being female doesn't help, despite a decrease in wine menu sexism, more times than not the wine menu is handed to The Boyfriend. Part of it of course is my fault, pronouncing " House white", is much easier than "Les Forêts"(Note:lay for ay), when you know nothing about French and I should pay more attention when wine is ordered for me.
Thee beginner class is aimed for poeple like me - those who point randomly at the menu rather than attempting to pronounce something, or those whose first question is the waiter/sommelier is "what do you think?" and then agree immediately at the first suggestions regardless of price. Or those who throw the wine list at their dining companions like its a ticking time bomb.
Its basic, and comforting to be surrounded by those who are equally clueless. In fact its encouraging. When smelling and drinking the wine its lovely to not be the only person calling out "But I can't smell the blackcurrents I can only smell roses", instead the 18 or so other people who were on the course would pitch in "Fabreeze! its just like Fabreeze", "I'm tasting rice pudding! or " Eugh why does it taste like dust?!". It made the whole thing a lot more fun.
Each week we tasted wines, and on the last week we sat a thirty minute multiple choice test. The first week was on the principals of wine and wine tasting, the second on food and wine matching, and the third on responsible drinking along with our exam. There was a tiny bit of homework, but it wasn't compulsory and didn't take more than 15 or so minutes.
It was, as I said, basic, but left me with helpful tips for future wine drinking (Example: if your eating Italian food, order Italian Wine. Obvious maybe, but something I'd never really thought about before), and has left me a lot more confident with a wine menu. I'd love to go back for round two, the intermediate course, and will once I get the chance.
The Beginner Course in Wine costs £140. More information is available on their website.