WSET Level 1 Award In Wines – Week 1

WSET Level 1 Award in Wines is a 4 week course with 5 modules. Start to finish, I will have completed the 5 modules and the WSET Level 1 final exam, which is scheduled through your Approved Program Provider (APP), in 5 weeks. Everything is self-paced so it’s up to you on how you want to schedule your time. To pass the course you must pass the final exam with a grade of 70% or higher. Anything less than 70% would be a failing grade. You can retake the exam without retaking the entire course through your APP for an additional charge. 

None of the modules count towards you passing the class, but they are beneficial to reinforce what you are learning in each of the modules. Think about it like this: If you’ve been to college and you had a professor say “only your final exam will count towards your grade for the class”, some people will be inclined to only show up for the final exam. More often than not, the people who attended the class throughout the year will fare better than those who crammed an entire semester’s worth of information 3 days before the final. Tasting 10 bottles of wine in 3 days may sound like a good idea, but realistically it’s better to space that out at least a little bit. 

Week 1 is fairly straightforward. You’re encouraged to introduce yourself to the class, of which mine had 102 students and one teacher. Class sizes will vary and I assume in person classes will be more intimate, but don’t know for sure. People in my class were from all over the world. After introductions, you can make groups or reach out to people directly through the chat feature. I can see this being a useful function in later courses where you can meet up with people locally, compare tasting notes or ask questions with whoever you’re inclined to interact with. You’re also encouraged to review the Workbook, Equipment List and Specification (syllabus) so you can gauge what you can expect. All 10 wine samples are included in the Equipment List which is helpful so that you only have to make one trip to the store.

Module 1 is an overview of wine making. Fermentation, wine colors and why they end up that color, introduction to wine terms such as tannins and mouthfeel as well as climate effects on grapes are all covered. You also have your first activity where you taste the different parts of the grape (skin and flesh) and contribute your findings to the group on what parts are sweet/bitter and mouthfeel. Because I’m an overachiever, I finished Module 2 in my first week as well. Module 2 reviews sweetness, acidity, tannin and styles and types of wine. You also have your first wine tasting where you compare a White Zinfandel against an Australian Shiraz and compare color, aromas, sweetness, acidity and tannins. The differences are easily noticeable since they’re, well… different. Putting theory into practice helped me better understand what a full bodied wine is, what a medium sweet wine is, picking out tropical notes in the White Zinfandel and dark fruits in the Shiraz. 

I knew some of the information before enrolling in the course, but being that I’m not in the industry I learned more than I thought I would and the materials are easy to follow. I enjoyed my first week, not only because I was drinking wine as part of my “homework”, but also could sense there was a solid foundation being built.