WSET vs CMS

by  |  20-08-2020  |  15 Comments

Wine education is something not to be undertaken lightly. There’s the investment of time and, well, a great deal of money. There’s also the issue of choosing the right direction which can be hard to fathom with all these acronyms floating around: WSET, CMS, MW, MS, CSW, CSS, WSG, WXF, XSP and a great many others including the last two I just made up to mess with you. This is why I delved into the subject awhile back to try and pass along what I’ve learned over the years as I went through the process with hundreds of other people I got to know who were doing the same.

I’ll be quite honest, the steps I took to further my wine knowledge weren’t necessarily the ones I would repeat today knowing what I know now about all these courses. So, while my older article still holds a great wealth of information, it’s time to look at how things have changed and pass along the information to hopefully help you make the best possible choices for your own, specific future, even if futures are exceedingly uncertain at the moment.

I’m going to focus here on the most respected and better-known certificates in Anglophone countries, the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) and the Court of Master Sommeliers (CMS). While there are of course other programs out there (mostly national ones), these two have managed to gain the most traction in terms of international recognition, availability, and, for lack of a better word, “brand awareness”.

Programs such as the Certified Specialist of Wine, the Wine Scholar Guild, and others have gained traction over time in more specific niches. But, in terms of overall availability and maturity of their programs, the WSET and CMS are, in my opinion the best options to look into first and if one desires, follow up with the other programs.

The lay of the land

Who should look into gaining certification with these two organizations? There’s a lot of discussion around this but essentially, the WSET is for literally anyone ranging from a consumer who simply wants to know a bit more to someone deep in the wine trade whether that be a wine buyer, retail worker, journalist, educator, speaker, and many others including yes, wine tour guides.

My co-author for the Georgia book, Daria Kholodilina gives tours in Georgia with her company, Trails & Wines. She’s completed the WSET II and looking to do the WSET III. Why? “There are a lot of people giving wine tours in Georgia now as it’s the ‘cradle of wine’ but what’s amazing is how few of them actually know anything about wine and I wanted to stand out and be more serious.”

On the other hand, the CMS is really for people working in hospitality, specifically as a sommelier. If you’re not sure what this is or if you’ve heard about it recently and think it’d be cool to call yourself one, I’d really recommend that you read this article first to learn what it entails.

Things get a bit confusing however because the CMS is purely a certification body with the studying happening in a self-paced, self-guided manner. The “classes” that they run are really just a quick review of material (ex. you will not learn about Spain fully in an hour) and aren’t designed for people to sit through them to then pass the exams afterwards. While there is an overview of required knowledge given, study is very much on you and this can be very difficult for some people more used to supervision and following a schedule as it requires a lot of self-discipline.

This is why a lot of people who do the CMS actually attend the WSET classes first. These are highly structured (sometimes to a fault) and provide people with stepping stones to gain ever more wine knowledge. This approach coupled with learning to taste wines blind can help people build towards the CMS, although there are many who don’t go this route, such as myself. One fellow who works at a French bistro in Washington DC told me, “First I did WSET II and then WSET III, followed by the CMS I and then CMS II.” That’s a quite sensible path if you have the time and money.

If, however you have no intention to deal with the sommelier side of things (ie service), the WSET offers an excellent path that starts off with basically, “This is red wine. This is white wine” and leads people through to the fourth level called the Diploma which is an intense certification with multiple tests covering all facets of wine.

The issue with both of these paths is how to make them match up to one another as unfortunately, despite both being devised in the UK, the levels are not at all congruous with one another, leading to a lot of head scratching.

Understanding the initial levels

This image is one that I derived based upon my own experience doing the CMS path, along with talking to dozens of people working in wine in recent years and interviewing a few others for this article. While everyone has an opinion nudging them one way or the other, there are trends that emerge.

The first is that WSET I is the most basic level of any of them. You can in fact skip it if you think you have a higher wine knowledge than what it addresses. Who is this level for? Sharon Grundy who teaches WSET classes at Wine Courses Barcelona told me, “It’s really a lot of people who work in the service industry. For example, in Barcelona we have people who work on yachts or cruise ships taking these classes as they have no hospitality or wine experience before they come in. Also, it’s for people who just want to start out and get a taste via a one-day course.”

A notch up in difficultly, you have WSET II which is a more involved course that takes place over three days. There is an assumption of more wine knowledge coming into this but at the same time, there is the option to skip it as well. It can be quite helpful for people who want to learn more about specific regions as well as wine profiles as it starts to delve into that voodoo parlor trick known as “blind tasting”.

Somewhere between WSET II and WSET III sits the CMS “Introductory” certification. It’s hard to put an exact placement on this as while there are more basic aspects to it such as knowing the two divisions of Burgundy’s Côte d’Or, there are more complicated items like memorizing well-known Third Growths in Bordeaux. There’s also a minor, yet still crucial service test to it. While the pass rate is around 90%, there are still plenty of people who fail it because I assume the “Introductory” aspect makes them think there will be a lot more lecture and guiding as you find in the WSET when in fact, there isn’t. Also, it’s obligatory to take for anyone going down the CMS path and if you want more details, you can read my account of taking it.

Advancing to the mid-levels

It’s important to emphasize that everything up to these points of the WSET II and the CMS Introductory are pretty crucial for anyone wanting to work in wine. Even if you don’t gain these certifications, you really need to have the equivalent of them in order to be taken seriously in any wine capacity. But everything gets monumentally more difficult when moving up to the WSET III and CMS “Certified Sommelier”.

Amaia Soto emphasized the difficulty aspect in an article she wrote about her path,

“I started directly with the Level 3 in Hong Kong. I just threw myself at it and I have to admit that I found it more demanding than I had expected. Trust me, even if you can skip Level 1 and 2 as I did, you need some kind of starting point. So unless you are very familiar with the WSET (how it works, how they mark the exams and so on) I suggest you to start at least from the Level 2 to know what it is all about.”

You’ll note that in the reference chart, I’ve placed the CMS Certified at a touch higher level than the WSET III. This is a tough call as both certifications are more or less comparable in terms of overall theory although the WSET III has more about winemaking while the CMS Certified has more about producers and cocktails. In the end, it’s really the format of the CMS Certified exam that makes it the tougher of the two.

Melissa Graeff, a sales representative for a mid-sized importer, did the WSET after the CMS and said, “When I started WSET III it was right after I had just passed Certified Sommelier. I already had so much knowledge that I found WSET III to be relatively easy.”

The knowledge level of these exams is intense. You can read about my taking the CMS Certified Sommelier and see that even if you have quite a lot of knowledge it’s not something you just show up to and ace. Same goes for the WSET III. But, if you really go through the 4th edition of, “Sales and Service for the Wine Professional” by Brian Julyan or then the accompanying text of the WSET III and toss in the World Atlas of Wine as well as a membership to Guildsomm, you’ll pass.

Ah yes… there’s that blind wine tasting aspect which terrifies a lot of people. It’s two wines for the WSET III and four for the CMS Certified. But what’s important here is not so much getting the wine right, but more getting your form right as at both these levels they’re prepping you for what comes next. This will require practice, but it’s all very much doable and there’s a set list of testable wines for both exams so it’s not nearly as intense as people might think it to be–at least at this level.

Moving up the ladder

A great many people stop at the Certified Sommelier in the CMS and/or WSET III and there are a lot of very valid reasons for this. The most common being that the amount of time, money and the slim pass rates of the higher levels (especially with the CMS at 30% for Advanced and 5% for Master) is really a lot to take on.

After the WSET III, there’s the WSET IV or as it’s more commonly known, “The Diploma” which can also be abbreviated as the awkward, “DipWSET”. The WSET organization clearly states that you need to put in a minimum of 500 hours of work to pass this level and that it takes between 18 months to 3 years to pass. Yikes. But, think of the Diploma as a level to start preparing for the Master of Wine, if that’s your overall trajectory as, for most people, this or the Advanced Sommelier are required to be able to apply.

For the CMS, the next level is the Advanced, but as you’ll note in the chart, I’ve inserted the “Professional Sommelier” which is a level that doesn’t exist, but really should and here’s why: the only reason to attempt the CMS Advanced Sommelier is if you’re seriously planning to attempt the CMS Master Sommelier.

There is a massive push in terms of difficultly from the Certified up to the Advanced, so much so that the exam is rightly referred to as the “mini Master”. It has this deeply-granular level of information that, if asking questions from an Advanced theory exam to people who hold the Diploma, they’ll often say, “What the hell is that?” This is because they’re facts that don’t come up in the standard wine trade environments you see with the Diploma, but that’s the nature of the Advanced exam. This is why the CMS creating this “Professional Sommelier” level or something with a similar name in the future would make for an excellent stopping point for those who want to challenge themselves to more than the now-fetishized Certified Sommelier but don’t see a need to continue to the elite level of the Master Sommelier.

The WSET Diploma will tax its takers with multiple tests covering a wide array of aspects in wine ranging from production, business, still wines, fortified, and sparkling. People will need to write essays, analyze and taste many wines blind. And there’s also a final research paper.

The key is that the exams are broken down into several chunks and if you fail one, you can re-take it. It’s stressful but it can be a managed stress, although what’s really stressful for many who attempt it is that they don’t know their results until months after the exam as the WSET is famously slow in grading papers.

The CMS Advanced is a whole different game as the exam takes place over two days. The first day is the theory and service portion and the second is the blind tasting. People can and do fail all three parts but what’s more common is that they pass two (such as theory and service or tasting and service) and then fail the third, but it makes no difference as you have to pass the entire exam in one setting and can’t repeat just one of the parts.

The theory exam of 100 or so questions covers an insanely-broad range of material about wine, winemaking, cocktails, and beer. The service portion will again pressure people on cocktails and classic wines. The tasting portion is three white and three red wines to be tasted in 25 minutes–exactly like the Master Sommelier exam. The one plus to this exam is that you get the good or sadly and more often, the bad news, the same day you finish the exams.

Micah Woodruff who holds the CMS Advanced and the WSET III and works the floor at a private club said, “Overall, I would say CMS is more difficult because there is a service component.”

And this is a sentiment that I’ve seen echoed time and again in that if you don’t have a service trajectory to your studies, then the CMS will see you run up against a wall, probably keeping you at the Certified Sommelier level. The WSET on the other hand will handily see anyone through to the Diploma no matter in what sector of the wine trade they come from although don’t think it will be a walk down the primrose path to get there.

In looking at this, it may seem like I’m generally advocating for the WSET course and to some degree I am as it serves more people overall who want to further their wine education. But, if you’re working purely in service, then the CMS is really all you need, especially as you can study at your own pace outside working hours and you’re essentially studying during working hours as well while on the floor.

A question of need

Does a wine professional actually need any of these certifications? The resounding answer from everyone I’ve ever talked to is, “no”. There have been countless people who have done very well in all facets of the wine trade without having a single certificate behind them. The catch of course is that you’re kinda having to constantly prove your worth to new people who don’t know you and when someone is looking at you through the lens of a resumé, the lack of a certificate can be a deal breaker.

Michelle DeFeo who is the president of a well-known Champagne house’s US branch put this very well,

“I’m certain that WSET I & II was instrumental for me getting my first job as a sales rep way back when. While my recent WSET III and Certified Sommelier certifications didn’t change my current standing in my company, they have been beneficial to our business in other ways. I will say that I have hired dozens and dozens of people over the course of my career, and have read countless resumés. It’s so easy for any applicant to say they love wine, but unless they already have significant work experience in the wine industry, I can only tell if they’re serious about wine if they have a credential of some sort. I make almost everyone in our office take WSET I & II so that they have a basic foundation of knowledge. On our sales team we have higher credentialed people up to the Diploma level.”

A question of price

So, if you’ve read this far in and can see that there’s an advantage in pursuing these exams and high-level credentials in wine, the most logical question to ask is, “How much will it cost?” The answer sadly, is “quite a bit”. Which can be quite a barrier to more diverse access to the industry.

For the in-person classes of the WSET at their base in London, the prices are: WSET I – £185/200€/$250, WSET II – £475/525€/$625, WSET III – £820/900€/$1,100, Diploma – £4,100/4,450€/$5,500 for a minimum total of £5,580/6,200€/$7,300 if you do the entire course. As a side note, the Master of Wine is over £10,000/11,050€/$13,000 in just fees, plus a lot more on the wines required for studying.

For CMS, the exams and review classes before each of them (with the exception of the Master Sommelier which is just the exam) are: Introductory – £565/625€/$750, Certified – £235/260€/$310 (done in tandem with the Introductory in the ‘European Chapter’), Advanced – £745/825€/$975, Master – £765/850€/$1,000 for a minimum total of £2,310/2,550€/$3,025

(Note that the conversion rates were done at the time of writing for GBP, EUR, and USD and will vary in terms of rates but also for specific geographic locations of the various exam providers.)

If you’re just glancing at these, it makes it look like the CMS is the far better value, but there are a great many hidden costs in there such as traveling to the exams (which is mandatory whereas the WSET can largely be done online at the lower levels) and then buying scads and scads of wines for tasting practice. The idea of course is that you should have access to a great many of these wines if you’re working in the trade but even still, you’ll need to pick up additional wines and it adds up fast.

The WSET has various options like choosing to do the study course online but the catch is that you then need to not only pay for, but also source the wines for tasting on your own which, if outside of wine-friendly cities such as London, NYC, San Francisco, Hong Kong and a handful of others, will be quite difficult.

Again, Amaia Soto explained the difficulties in terms of wine availability and tasting support when not in a prime market, “First problem I faced with this was the lack of samples in Mainland China. It was a nightmare and cost me an arm and a leg! A further important point, I didn’t have a tasting group or any kind of study group for that matter.”

Recently, Wine.com announced that they are partnering with the WSET to create a reference set of wines for people to buy. This is of course only available in the US where there’s always been better availability due to direct shipping. But, it’s a move in the right direction and hopefully more countries and regions will replicate this as it makes life much, much easier for those attempting the exams.

So in glancing at the costs of the courses and possible the wines, are these prices expensive to you? That depends a great deal on your own situation as when talking with people around the world, the responses come down to two camps: people in the United States and people everywhere else. There are few Americans who have achieved these levels that find the costs to be all that onerous as the price of say the WSET III is one- or two-week’s salary whereas for someone in Spain where I’m based it’s more than an entire month’s salary. In a country such as the republic of Georgia, it could be more than two month’s salary.

This has definitely made it difficult for more people to access these programs and while there are scholarships available, it’s often the case people have to move to the aforementioned wine-friendly cities (if they can) to achieve them. So this all started as a very British affair but now includes the United States. Despite the growth, access to people in other countries, with less income and, let’s just face it, who aren’t white, is still a gaping divide.

You also need to weigh the costs against what you’ll gain from them, as with any other investment in your education. If intending to work in wine writing or judging, it’s hard to justify these costs as what writing there is, pays poorly and wine judging, well that almost never pays anything unless you’re a director of the competition. If you’re planning to work in wine sales, import/export, or as a sommelier, then these certifications can make a difference in terms of salary so there’s definitely a long-term benefit there. But this is all a very personal choice for someone to make.

Downsides?

Don’t think that either of these courses will be a silver bullet to furthering your wine career. There’s always a great deal of independent study required to be up to date in the wine world. It’s very easy to find people who have achieved any one of these levels but have clearly stopped studying and it shows. If you want to remain current and relevant, you can’t stop learning, so it’s an aspect of the wine trade that’s worth considering if you’re just starting out in that you’re always learning if you’re the least bit good and curious.

Do keep in mind that neither the WSET nor the CMS are actual official accredited education bodies. By this I mean that even if attaining the “Master of Wine” or “Master Sommelier”, these do not hold the weight nor the backing of accreditation that one finds in a master degree from a university. Thus, these are not akin to a “Master of Science” or “Master of Fine Arts”. They’re titles bestowed by people who have passed the exams previously but are not part of a state-accredited education system.

In terms of the WSET, despite it forming a good framework for people to learn about wine, it also has its downsides. The first is the aforementioned cost, which can be huge. The second is that it can be a really nontransparent organization. As I mentioned earlier, the tests take an unjustifiably long time to get graded. Once received if you don’t pass, you can either pay to retake the exam or pay to have your results shared with you. They don’t share results beyond pass/fail willingly which can be frustrating for people who might want to know how to do better. I’ve had many people vent their frustrations to me in private that the WSET word is the final word and if you don’t accept it, well, too bad.

Another problem is that change comes slowly to WSET and materials are often out of date with reality. They do what they can to keep things up to date, but what’s in the text is what’s testable, so you need to know it, even if it’s wrong according to common knowledge from your professional experience. For example, according to them, Nebbiolo has a “full” body and Cava is a “budget” sparkling wine. These are aspects to the program that you just have to accept and toe the party line in order to pass. Unfortunately, instructors or “Approved Program Providers”, while they can comment about how they feel on a topic, still have to tell people that “so and so is X for the exam”.

Another problem is that as soon as someone passes one of the WSET levels and takes a one-week course, they can start teaching the lower levels, so there are many, many “Approved Program Providers” of varying quality. In some cases, instructors are merely parroting what’s in the study materials and not adding much to the learning experience, whereas others are truly making it worthwhile to take the course. That’s why I’d recommend researching schools thoroughly before you take the plunge.

As for the CMS, it’s become a victim to its own growth. The boom in interest to take these exams led to rapid growth, competition, and ultimately unfortunate behavior. It still remains a robust and exceedingly difficult certification but as to whether it’s something you want to pursue after the cheating scandal, racial inequality, and being exceedingly male dominated, is up to you. Again, keep in mind that anything past the Certified level means that you’re heading straight up to taking on the Master and very, very few people pass that exam.

So, which path?

Ultimately, the path you choose will be one that you’ll have hopefully chosen carefully. As you can see, neither of these paths are cheap nor fast, as is often the case in life for anything worth doing. In fact, if something seems too easy or too good to be true, it probably is. Never trust shortcuts.

But, in addition to the other courses I mentioned at the beginning, there are also more casual, local options such as joining a tasting or study group (both of these can be found in Guildsomm), visiting wine regions (an excellent pursuit even if not looking to study), and just tasting as well as reading extensively. There’s always more one can do when it comes to wine and there are always others happy to accompany you in this path.

I can only hope that, as someone with no commercial investment in either of these programs, my laying out how their structured and compare to one another can help you to make a more informed decision as to what might be the best for you and your future.

Comments

15 responses to “WSET vs CMS”

  1. Liam Mycroft says:

    Excellent comparison between the two. As a consumer with a “love for wine”, and aside from writing my own blog, no thoughts at my age of working professionally in the business, I went down the road of WSET, so far completed, and passed level 3, and toying with the idea of the Diploma. I think you hit the nail on the head with regard to which path to choose. The CMS is clearly aimed at those in the service side of the business, while WSET has a broader appeal. While deciding on whether I go for the Diploma, I have looked around at the Courses (and “qualifications”), offered in more specialized areas, such as the Country Specific WSG and Italian Wine Professional Certification, which add more to knowledge, than to Certificates for framing.

    I’m torn as to invest in the diploma, given what I said earlier, and like the look of the WSG and IWP style courses, and getting to grips with far more detail in specific areas, having gained the broad knowledge to date via WSET. An interesting debate..

    • Miquel Hudin says:

      Yup, even with removing the spirits requirement from the Diploma, it’s still a massive amount of work to take on and while there are a number of casual wine drinkers who go for it, most people who do it, are doing it for professional reasons.

      There are a number of “educator” programs around. Sure, you get a certificate, but they’re solid for understanding the regions better. Here in Spain we have Rioja, Cava, and Sherry. Portugal has one on Port. There are others as well. Problem is, they’re mostly targeted towards people in the wine trade and as such have limited acceptance rates.

      I think my best advice would be to find someone in various regions who has a good base of wine knowledge but can really take you around and actually educate you on that specific region as opposed to just dishing up a booze cruise. This is how I ended up doing limited amounts of in depth local tastings in Priorat as people contacted me due to the book and writing articles about the region. I often get asked if I know others with a similar profile in other regions, but unfortunately I don’t and there are so many bullshit tour operators out there that’s it’s really hard to know who actually has a solid knowledge base and who has just managed to weasel their tour website to the top of the search results.

      Regardless, this personal travel angle is my best recommendation and I really respect these people I’ve met who do 2-3 intensive trips a year to wine regions around the world.

  2. steve says:

    The thing to note about the wset class aspect is that the quality and experience can vary widely based on your location, especially in the higher levels. There is not really a uniform school. They contract out their courses to independent business. So the quality of professors is not uniform

    • Miquel Hudin says:

      That’s absolutely true and I’m glad you brought it up. I didn’t want to get into in the article as obviously it’s a contentious point but there are definitely education outfits that are just pushing Google campaigns to get bodies through the door, giving ammo to the argument that WSET is a “sausage factory” as someone told me.

  3. Brian says:

    The Institute of Masters of Wine and the WSET are separate regulating bodies. The Diploma is necessarily required but recommended. Several candidates and MWs have outside education (UC Davis,etc) to gain acceptance to the program. Also, at the diploma level you blind taste more wines ( 3 per unit, 12 in unit 3) with much more detail than the CMS Advanced. The WSET diploma has much more of the “why” involved and requires justifications versus the general attitude of “because” in the CMS, which also does not reveal exam results at higher levels.

  4. Tom Perry says:

    Very interesting article, Miquel. My experience with the WSET (I attained Level 3 in 2009) was mostly positive although as a seasoned wine professional who learned to taste with many winemakers, professors of enology etc. I was a put off by the WSET’s systematic approach to tasting where you’re only allowed to use the terminology for that level. We were constantly called out for our use of unauthorized terms. However I felt that it was a good overview of the world of wine. I would have gone ahead with the Diploma if it had been possible to study it in Spain but the requirement of going to London to study was out of reach. Did it help me with my career? No but for personal knowledge, it was valuable.

    • Miquel Hudin says:

      Yeah, there’s a problem with it not really being designed for people coming in with a certain amount of knowledge and I’ve looked over the WSET tasting grid and I can’t say that I like it. Being stuck in that and their definitions of how things “should” be called was a real turn off. I honestly don’t know how they can stick with it as if you’re not coming at this from living in Europe or North American, a lot of these flavors and aromas will be completely foreign.

      • Anna Harris-Noble says:

        Hi Tom, hi Miquel,

        Great article.

        I hold the WSET Diploma and have taught level 3 in Spain since 2017. The issue over descriptors has been improved in the newer version of the qualification (updated in 2016). The tasting exam is marked by the course teacher/invigilator so they can accept aroma/flavour descriptors that do not appear on the sheet as long as they also find them in the wine, so an examiner in Asia could accept “yuzu” as a citrus descriptor and I could accept “membrillo” as meaning cooked quince paste, etc, although they have to be something that anyone can generally understand, not “my granny’s cupboard” or something like that! The only reason they get you to try to stick to the standardised terms is as if you go on to the diploma in London you have to bear in mind that it will be examined by someone who may not have the same cultural terms of reference, so the idea is that you learn to use a standardised language to write tasting notes that can be readily understood by anyone who has learnt the WSET “system”.

        The hardest part for me is explaining to Spanish students why the sections on Spain are so paltry compared to other countries – although I point out that all wine producing regions probably feel the same and that for historical reasons the learning is based on using French regions as a framework.

        Anyway, like any qualification, the WSET 3 is not perfect, but I do think that it offers you a good basis for organising your knowledge and understanding the factors that influence the taste and price of a wine.

        Kind Regards,
        Anna

        • Tom Perry says:

          Hi Anna,

          Good to hear from you!
          My favorite tasting anecdote was with a group of mainland Chinese at a tasting I gave at the Rioja Regulatory Council. Rather than giving them the typical descriptors for tempranillo etc. I asked them to describe the wines using their terms. one guy commented that a particular red smelled like ‘Beijing in winter’! Not very complimentary!

        • Miquel Hudin says:

          Hi Anna, thanks for stopping by!

          It is definitely a problem to create something standardized yet international, no? I guess the real issue is that the system remains inherently UK in terms of bias for example, being American, I had no idea what “sultan” or “damson” were for descriptors. It’s true there is not perfect system though and it offers up a starting point as I can always tell when people have never studied a lick of tasting as their notes are just all over the place.

          Locally here in Catalunya, a wine analysis center has worked to create a chart where you rank from 1-10 in certain “indexes” which are less flavors and more levels of intensity and is more or less language independent. I can’t say I’m a huge fan though as qualifying a wine to have a 3 of “tar qualities” versus a 7 is quite trying.

  5. Mark Cochard says:

    The WSET has come along way from when I went through the Diploma in 2002 and 2003. There were only 3 locations in the US that taught Level 4. In the syllabus North America merited 3 pages. Today it is 69 pages in the study guide. I did the Diploma home study with no classes and we were pretty much left up to our own devices to figure what was important. Today depending on the APP you have instructors with a wealth of knowledge to learn from.

    • Miquel Hudin says:

      Thanks for commenting, Mark. Yeah, there’s definitely a lot of variance in program providers and the ones I encountered in San Francisco when looking into it 12 years ago sorta turned me off. I suppose it’s the same in any education situation.

  6. sftreks says:

    Your comments about the length of time to get WSET test results is spot on! And, it’s getting worse. I took WSET Level 3 test in late June, and they estimate I’ll receive my results in late October! 4 months later! For this reason alone, I’m not going to move forward with them — and will instead look to CMS program. If I don’t pass the level 3, I’d be looking at waiting for the next test date and then another 4 month wait! WSET is so antiquated and slow they just aren’t worth the money.

    • Miquel Hudin says:

      Good lord that’s ridiculous and inexcusable. And it’s not like there’s some Covid excuse for it as they’re just grading a paper. Sorry to hear this but hopefully you’ll get a pass result soon!

  7. Vivian says:

    Hi Miquel,
    I’ve just completed WSET Level 2 after reading your original article for insights. I enrolled at the Capital Wine School in Washington, DC. They did a fabulous job in shifting to online during Covid and providing almost 30 samples for the class which was really helpful. The instructors are really supportive and were available for “above and beyond” type of questions as well as encouraging networking for industry attendees, who were 2/3 of the class, the other 1/3 being hobbyists such as myself. Unfortunately WSET had a tech problem with the test and it took 2 months for next available and we have been told test results could be several more weeks. It’s a simple scantron! Crazy. The Capital Wine School has also launched a scholarship program for People of Color to address the disparity in the industry and is featuring wine classes such as Black-owned Wines to support diversity. WSET probably provides a good foundation if not with a staid approach and organizational capacity but your point about researching your school is spot-on. My experience was enhanced greatly b/c of the school.
    Salud!
    V-

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