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Taking your wine knowledge further with Leiths and the WSET

/ Categories Tricks of the trade, Student stories, Alumni, Behind the scenes, News & events, #MadeAtLeiths / Author:

Taking your wine knowledge further with Leiths and the WSET

This week, young chef and Leiths alumna Ailie Bishop fills us in on why she thinks the WSET awards are worth their weight in golden grapes for industry professionals and enthusiasts alike.

I wanted to write this blog piece to discuss my personal experience of the WSET Level 2 course, to help other people considering taking on the challenge.

I say challenge, but really it’s just a fun and interactive way to learn about wine, with like-minded people who all enjoy a glass of wine now and again!

The first thing to know is that to gain the qualification there is a teeny tiny theory exam at the end of the nine weeks; 50 multiple choice questions, an hour to complete and a pass rate of just 55%. That doesn’t sound so bad does it?

You’ll feel fully prepared when it comes to it, as you’re given practice questions every step of the way, and if you’re anything like me you’ll find yourself tasting and testing different wines at home (for revision purposes of course!)

You might be wondering why a professional wine qualification is necessary when there are so many amateur wine classes available.

Personally, and having spoken to others working in the catering and hospitality industry, the answer is obvious. The qualification is internationally recognised and seen as a vital stepping stone to more senior roles.

For me, and doing what I do (I run my own catering and events company, Cameron and Co), I found the whole course so valuable. I’m constantly asked to make suggestions for wines to serve alongside our menus. Customers seem to be getting more clued up, and it’s important I stay one step ahead; confident in my choices.

Prior to setting up the events business I worked as restaurant manager at a small independent restaurant. It was too small to employ a full time sommelier, and I was the next best thing. The WSET Level 2 award enabled me to chat in depth about why I’d made certain suggestions and gave me the self-assurance to do so.

But what about those who have no interest in pursuing wine as a career, those who are purely curious wine drinkers? When I took the course I was not a complete wine novice, but I knew what I liked and stuck with it.

Completing the course has meant I have learned to appreciate wines that I’ve never liked before simply because I’m aware of how I should be drinking them and what I should be eating with them.

This has opened up so many different wines and accompanying recipes. It’s broadened my horizons and I would take the course for this reason alone.

The highlight of participating in the course as a non-professional has to be the wine tasting. You’ll taste and try wines but you’re not tested on your tasting skills at the end – a win win in my book!

You’ll be provided with a useful tasting framework you can use to develop your appreciation of wine, whether you’re at home or navigating your way round a restaurant wine list. I’ve found you get far more out of a wine when you apply these skills.

Most importantly of all, upon completion of the award, you’ll get more pleasure out of each and every glass of wine that you drink going forward whether it’s savouring the fine wines or making the most of a not-so-good wine (that’s right, you’ll even learn the best way to enjoy the inexpensive bottles that make your lips pucker and face shrink at first sip!)

In my mind, learning about wine is the perfect way to add interest and flavour to dark winter evenings, whether wine is your career or your hobby. If you’re taking the course, all I can say is enjoy!

Find out more about Ailie and Dan’s events company here.

Author: Ailie Bishop


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