Frequently Asked Questions
Where to start your wine education …
In addition to Wine 101 and the French Wine Scholar program, the American Wine School offers all 3 Levels of study within the WSET framework. While it is not necessary to take all levels of study, it is important to start at the correct level. The following details will help you determine where to begin your WSET wine education:
WSET Level 1
If you are new to wine, but are looking to hone your skills, this course may be right for you. The course begins by exploring how wine is made and the major grape varieties, but does not delve into wine regions of the world. The second lecture focuses on storage and service including the proper way to open a bottle of wine and a bottle of sparkling wine. The WSET Level 1 Course ends with a simple food and wine pairing exercise. Good for restaurant servers and novice wine sippers, Level 1 offers an educational snapshot of wine. A 30 question, multiple-choice exam is given the last day of class.
WSET Level 2
For those who are already familiar with the differences between red and white winemaking, Riesling and Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, then Level 2 might be a good place to begin. Level 2 reviews the wine making process, but then focuses on the major wine regions of the world. By exploring topography, geography and climates, students gain a solid understanding why grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon make very different wines if grown in France, Chile or California. The course covers all styles of winemaking including Port, Sherry & Champagne as well as basic production methods for making spirits. WSET level 1 is not a requirement for this course. Students should plan a moderate amount of study time to pass the 50 question, multiple-choice exam. This course is on par with the Introductory Sommelier Course offered by the Court of Master Sommeliers (Note: WSET does not include restaurant service as part of the course).
WSET Level 3
While WSET Level 2 is not a prerequisite for taking Level 3, unless you have extensive experience and a good understanding of the major wine regions of the world, it is highly recommended. WSET Level 3 is on par with the experience required to pass the Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) awarded by the Society of Wine Educators and the Certified Sommelier Exam offered by the Court of Master Sommeliers. While the WSET Level 3 course does not include restaurant service, it does include blind tasting of 2 wines and a theory section comprised of both multiple choice and short/long answer. Students should order the study guide and text early to have as much study time as possible.
Do I need to take Level 1 before taking Level 2?
No. Level 1 is a basic Wine 101 course. If you have some experience with wine, you can start with Level 2.
Do I need to take Level 2 before taking Level 3?
While taking Level 2 is not a requirement for taking Level 3, we strong suggest that you do not skip Level 2 unless you have extensive experience in wine.
Can I order just the book for Level 1,2 or 3?
Students may order the book without signing up for a class, but the fee includes the price of the exam. To do so, go to the At Home Self Study page of the website. If you decide to join a class at a later day, simply sign up via purchasing a supplemental fee.
How do the three levels of WSET differ?
Level 1 is a basic Wine 101 class followed by a food & wine pairing session. A 30 question multiple choice exam follows the course. No prep time is required.
Level 2 is more in depth and, in addition to wine making and classic grape varieties, the course covers the major wine regions of the world. A 50 questions multiple choice exam follows the course. Moderate prep time of about 4 weeks is required.
Level 3 in a very in depth look into the world of wine including lesser known regions. A 50 question multiple choice, short answer and blind tasting of 2 wines follows the course. It requires 6-8 weeks of prep time.
Will I be able to call myself a sommelier after taking WSET courses?
If you manage wine, then you can call yourself a sommelier. If you would like to be a Certified Sommelier, please visit the Court of Master Sommelier website and read up on the requirements to do so.
What post-nominal can I add to my name once I pass the WSET exams?
WSET does not offer post-nominal letters. They do, however, offer candidates to become WSET Certified once they successfully pass the Level 2 or Level 3 exam.
If I am interested in entering the wine business, how do I know which study path is right for me?
The top 3 exam routes open to candidates wanting to learn more about wine are all worthy programs, each with a specific intent. Here is a snapshot of each.
Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET): Meant for leisure and professional students alike, the WSET program takes an academic approach to wine. The program is gear toward developing an understanding of wine, so one may share this knowledge with others or put it to good use during their daily life. Many distributors, retailers, importers, auction houses, hotels, and restaurants send their employees through this program.
Court of Master Sommeliers: If you want to call yourself a Certified Sommelier or are interested in becoming a table-side sommelier, then this is the course for you. The course is mainly self-study and the exams incorporate a fair amount of table service. Geared for those wanting to work in a restaurant or hospitality industry, the program requires candidates to memorize wine laws, grapes, regions and topographical features. Whether you sit for the Intro Level, Certified Sommelier Level or the Advanced Level, all immersion lectures are all lead by Master Sommeliers. Many large restaurant organizations send their employees through this program.
Society of Wine Educators: An American-based program of study, the Society of Wine Educators offers a well-developed course of study leading to the Certified Wine Specialist award. The organization has developed a course book and online study to help candidates negotiate their way through the material covering grape growing, wine making, as well as the main wine regions of the world. Many distributors and importers are requiring their sales force to sit for this exam. Successful candidate are permitted to use the CWS post-nominal.
If I miss a class, can I make it up?
No. Make up classes are not offered. That said, many candidates miss a lecture or two. In general, this is not an issue if you have fully prepared for the exam.
Is food served during the classes?
With the exception of the Food & Wine pairing class, food is not available during the class.