WSET, Wine Education Made Easy
By Angela Mount
Ever worried about which wine to buy? Don’t know the difference between Sauvignon and Semillon? Want to know what goes best with fish and chips? Well, there’s a simple solution, for the thousands out there who’d like to know a teeny bit more about wine, but are afraid to ask.
The smart-sounding ‘Wine & Spirit Education Trust’ has the answers – in a non-stuffy way. It’s a business that runs both serious courses for wine professionals, but also fun, informative courses for those who just want a little bit more knowledge and a lot more confidence in choosing their wines, and knowing what they’re buying.
The Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) is not only the largest wine and spirit education provider in the world (with courses in over 62 countries), but many of their qualifications are government accredited and they have a network of over 200 educators, trainers and course organisers throughout the UK. Most of us who’ve been involved in wine, have been through their rigorous and expertly-run courses, from the introductory Level 1 Award in Wines, one day familiarization course, to the challenging Diploma, which is a specialist, and highly detailed course for wine professionals. At one stage of my career, I had the responsibility of teaching the very confusing, and at that time, little-understood subject of ‘Wines of Eastern Europe’ for the Diploma course, so I know just how much knowledge is imparted at this level.
Originally these courses were created only for people working within the wine industry, be that wine supplier, wine shop or restaurant – but in the mid-90s, the WSET realized just how many wine drinkers were keen to have that extra bit of knowledge, but didn’t want to embark on anything too complicated – most of all these wine lovers just wanted to learn how to experiment a bit more with different wines, and try a few new things with confidence.
For years the subject of wine, how to taste, what to choose, and where it was from, was seen as complicated, and quite frankly, scary. Just like fashion brands, the bottle you chose made a statement about you. But with the foodie revolution and, linked to that, a far greater interest in wine, came a need to provide more information, in a simple, approachable way. I talked to WSET UK Business Development Director Graham Cox about how his courses help enhance the fun and pleasure of wine drinking. “In a recent Yougov survey commissioned by the WSET, the results made it clear that the average consumer is becoming more interested in learning about the quality of the product they are purchasing. ‘ he said ‘ In order to feed that desire to learn more, we are delighted to be partnering with Wines Direct to spread the message about how consumers can find a WSET course in their local area through our network of Approved Programme Providers”.
And that’s the simple message – you don’t need to worry about which bottle to pick off the shelf any more; you don’t need to have that momentary panic when a restaurant wine list is put in front of you. These days, tens of thousands of people who enjoy a glass of wine, want to try new things, and most importantly want to be able to talk about wine, and choose wine with more confidence, are signing up to these courses, learning simple guides to choosing wine, for all types of occasions, finding out about food and wine matching, and exploring different tastes and styles.
There are courses being run all over the country – from a simple one day introductory guide, to longer courses over several weeks, but the message is that there is something for everyone. Graham and his team are ready to help – just look them up on www.WSETglobal.com.
Summer Wine Food & Wine Matching Ideas
In the meantime, as it’s barbecue and picnic season, here are just a few suggestions for choosing the right wines for Summer, to give you that extra nudge to go and learn a little bit more with the WSET for yourselves:
Explore The Best Wines With Picnics
Keep the styles light, fresh, and fruity, and don’t go for alcoholic blockbusters! These are wines to go with salads, snacks, and classic picnic fare such as cheese, pate and pork pies. Crisp, zesty, refreshing whites, such as Tesco Finest Vinho Verde are spot on, as are lively fruity dry roses like Majestic Wines’ Provencal M De Minuty Rose and soft, light reds are good ideas – Waitrose Cellar do a deliciously juicy Loire red Saumur Champigny La Croix De Chaintres - my top tip for picnic reds is to chill them slightly, as this will really bring out the berry fruit flavours, so stick them in the coolbag before you leave home.
Explore The Best Wines With Barbecues
Where to start? There are hundreds of different barbecue recipes and dishes to choose from, so how do you select the wine? Once again, go for bright, fruity, easy-drinking, vibrant, soft styles of white, rose and red. This isn’t a serious dinner party, a barbecue is about relaxed entertainment, where the wine is the accompaniement, not the main star, but needs to suit the mood and the style of the food. If you’re chargrilling prawns or salmon, creamy, smooth whites like Tesco Finest Limoux Chardonnay always work, and one of my new finds; for butterflied leg of lamb, look no further than Beronia Tinto Crianza whilst big bold, sunshine reds, such as the sumptuous Ravenswood Lodi Zinfandel are always great matches for steak.
Marinades give an extra twist; for simple lemon and herb styles, for chicken or pork skewers, go with refreshing but elegant whites such as ASDA Extra Special Gavi, or bright, bold, and lively reds, like Morrisons Signature Pic Saint Loup; but if you’re adding oriental, or hot and spicy flavours, then you need wines, which can match up to the medley of spices, so go for very fruity, aromatic whites – Riesling is the best bet here, try Villa Maria Cellar Selection Riesling from Asda and other stockists; fruity pink wines are fabulous with oriental spices, epitomized by Majestic Wines’ exuberant and neon-pink Pizarras De Otero Rose, and, soft, fragrant, fruity, low tannin reds such as Tesco Finest Marlborough Pinot Noir, made by one of my favourite Kiwi girl winemakers, Tamra Washington, also work well.
Enjoy the discovery!