The WSET Diploma – Epilogue

[For those who want a primer on what the WSET Diploma is, read this article by Jancis Robinson.]

And breathe…

I was this close to letting my relationship with wine tip to the hate side of the love/hate equilibrium. Revising relentlessly for an exam for 6 months can do that to you. After 2 (panicked) deferrals, I finally buckled down, studied diligently as many weekends as possible over 5 months, and solidly crammed for the final month ahead of my June 2014, WSET Diploma Unit 3 Tasting and Theory exams.


It was difficult. I left the 5 hour exam shattered. I had no idea if I would pass or fail. I couldn’t conceive how Pinot Noir, one of my easiest blind identifications, could bamboozle me endlessly in the Tasting exam. It felt like I had studied all of the content that wasn’t evaluated. I somehow missed the topics of the Tuscan wine renaissance, water shortages in Argentina & Spain, the history of red wine production in New Zealand, and more. And I forgot what “Smaragd” signifies.

It’s maddening how much effort you can put into revising multiple sources, memorizing stacks, literally stacks of information, building memory connections, understanding how each factor relates to another; 800 (virtual) flashcards, 27 spreadsheets to track varietal themes and wine region parameters (down to the sub-AC level). Yet, with such a vast subject matter, of course the result was going to hinge on the fringes of my knowledge.

I felt defeated after the Unit 3 exams, and was ready to never speak or care about wine again. This was unlike any University-level exam I’ve taken, as the curriculum is far too undefined, far too vague, and every topic to do with wine is fair game. Even my 400-level Science courses for my Biochemistry degree had a much more simply defined scope. But that is what has made success all the sweeter.

Today I found out that I passed both my Unit 3 Theory & Tasting exams. I even managed a “Merit” on the latter.

It’s been an emotional roller coaster. Was it worth it? Yes, it feels good to pass an exam that last year had a 40% pass rate (for the Theory portion), and has historically had as low as a 34% pass rate. However, I’m still bothered by how much knowledge went untested, about how much more I knew and understood that was never probed or evaluated. But, this is the way of wine academia and examinations. I also know that based on this experience, the Master of Wine designation is a bridge too far. The potential pain avoided on that realization alone may save me a lot of pain and heartache.

So, now it’s time to renew my love for wine by drinking for enjoyment (rather than study), resurrect this neglected blog, and get back to a normal life of not dissecting every slurp incessantly.

4 comments to The WSET Diploma – Epilogue

  • Sofia Tupas

    Congratulations, a job well done.

  • Congratulations! I’ve been wondering whether to tackle this. I think not.

  • costa

    Congrats! I am still waiting to find out my results for the same exam. Your post gives me some hope!

  • Bazza and Jude McA.

    Hi to a very clever Son-in Law

    We are both very happy for you and offer our heart felt congratulations – we know how much hard work you have put into achieving this result.

    Look forward to catching up with you some time in the future – we are always happy to drink your wine (or anyone else’s) while you tell us all about it.

    Well done!

Wine truths

“Champagne is the only wine that leaves a woman beautiful after drinking it.”
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Wine Ratings

★☆☆☆☆ - Poor quality. Avoid. Save your money. Between 80-84 points.

★★☆☆☆ - Average quality or poor value. Between 84-88 points. Some expensive wines are downgraded for bad value.

★★★☆☆ - Good. Between 88-92 points. Or a good value on the lower end of the point scale.

★★★☆☆ - Excellent quality. Between 92-96 points. Or a cheap yet good quality wine which is excellent value.

★★★☆☆ - Outstanding, best examples in the world. Between 96 and 100 points. A perfect wine.