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WSET Level 1 - Turning Professional Alcoholic

One of the benefits of living in France is access to good quality wines at very affordable prices. I think I might have turned alcoholic (or winaholic) since my arrivals six months ago. Being a title hugger that I am, I didn’t even think twice when I found that VINSEAD is organizing a level 1 wine tasting certification course. Becoming a certified professional alcoholic – why not!?

Fast forward to now: Viola! I’m now WSET Level 1 certified (still waiting for the actual printed certification though…). To be honest, I should have written this right after the exam day, but I was waiting to get the result so that I’m not embarrassing myself :P

So here we go!



The content of WSET Level 1 is rather very light, especially if you have been to a few wine tasting events. Over the course of one day, we learned:

  • Winemaking process at the highest level possible

  • Typical types of grapes and well-known wine region

  • Basic descriptor of wine (e.g., acidity, tannin)

  • Basic structure of wine tasting (e.g., see, smell, taste, etc.)

  • And wine pairing

While the course is useful if you are very new to wine tasting or never pay attention to what you have been drinking, it is hardly anything new. I have been “lectured” beyond the scope of Level 1 during my visit to a vineyard in Wisconsin and Bordeaux (I was guided by the owner of the vineyard who holds a bachelor in winemaking). The wine tastings that I have experienced before also went into a much deeper level than the designed content of Level 1 as well. The only new part for me was the wine and food pairing, which is quite interesting and fun!

The wines

We tasted about 10 different bottles of wine on that day. At first, we were asked to spit out after every sip – mainly to prevent us from getting drunk, but as the day went on, and we found some that we really liked, I just decided to drink whatever I like. Hint: Pinot Noir from Bergundy can rarely fail you 😊

Surprisingly, there were some interesting wines from Australia, New Zealand, and South America. I initially expected that there will be more French wines. It turned out that there were only 2-3 French ones, and the rest are from all over the world. To be honest, I would love more French and Italian wine mainly just because they are generally better than what we tasted on that day… (For some reasons, that grassiness smell in Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand is just not my style).

The Exam

While I was pretty sure of my general knowledge, I’m just a very bad exam taker – especially multiple choice questions. I think my brain has been quite damaged from all the drinking in my INSEAD year :D Also, the questions are all quite memory-based such as “how does [wine name] typically smell like?” or “True or False: [wine name] is made by [wine making process]?”. However, the good part is that you only need 70% to pass the exam! And Viola! Despite my tipsiness, I passed!

Now, I’m really looking forward to WSET Level 2!

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