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What's Open Owen - November/December '22 Edition

What a wild year it's been! I have been MIA on the Beverage Blog because I was intensely studying for my WSET (Wine Spirit and Education Trust) level 3 exam in Wines, which encompasses three separate wine-centric examinations wrapped in one. It is a professional certification geared toward wine professionals to showcase their knowledge and skill in blind tasting, multiple choice, and open-response essay questions. There are four levels in total, and to pass, you must pass each portion individually with at least a grade of 55%. The tricky part is that you can pass individual portions and fail others but must pass all three to receive the grade of "pass." I am happy to report that I passed all three portions on my first try, with the grade of "Merit." This means I had an average score on all parts above 70%!

Here is my experience with the exam.

The actual exam is given at the end of a rigorous four-month-long classroom-style lecture series, which includes plenty of blind tasting. During the four months, we went over everything from wine production to the memorization of grape varietals, regions, and famous producers. I enjoyed the structured style of the class and found myself learning much more than I expected. I would recommend it to any wine professional.

The first part of the exam is the blind-tasting portion. A wine professional needs to be able to taste and describe a wine without knowing what the wine is. One white wine, one red wine, and a blank tasting grid (WSET's blind tasting format) is essentially the challenge. The grid itself needs to be memorized and encompasses the three portions of evaluating a glass of wine. Sight, Smell, Taste - seems simple right?.

The first aspect of the wine to evaluate is the color and intensity of that color. Next, you smell your glass. Contrary to popular belief, this is where most of the actual "tasting" is done. It is broken down into Indensity, Development, and aromas, requiring at least five different aromas to be distinguished. From there, you finally get to taste the wine! It is about evaluating the palate's structure, so the grid is broken down into Sweetness, Intensity, Body, Acidity, Tannin (Only for red), Alchohol, Flavors, and Finish. At least 55% of these items called need to be correct to pass. The time flew by during the exam, and I wrote what I was experiencing, nothing more. I firmly believe in going with your first instinct for blind tasting and not revisiting my tasting notes over and over. They will never tell you what the wines were.

The second part is straightforward. Fifty multiple-choice questions about anything in the wine world. The lectures and my prior experience in the wine world prepared me for this portion. I would say this was the easiest part.

The third portion is what trips many candidates up. It is an open-response examination, which makes it difficult because it can be about anything in the wine world. It is extremely difficult to study since the content is so broad. It is four questions, broken down into separate parts, so it is about 15 questions about four subjects. You either know it, or you don't. There is no way to BS your way through. I had questions about semi-carbonic maceration, label identification of vintage sherry, and proper service etiquette. A majority of the time of the exam is spent on this part. I wrote until they told me to stop, and it seemed my approach was the right move!

With my WSET 3 Award in Wines, I have now proven myself in an examination to be proficient in my blind tasting, recognition, and free recall of wine theory. It feels great to have the certification, but the real question is which one I will get next!

Have any questions or comments? Don't hesitate to reach out and let me know what you have open this month!


Owen Huzar, WSET 3.

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