If you’ve visited my site before, you are probably aware that I like wine. It’s been an increasing interest of mine, not because I like to get drunk because, I don’t. I like to be in bed by 10 pm and up early and I have no tolerance for hangovers. But, I do like a glass of wine or three (my absolute maximum!) and have been developing a keen interest in learning more about the wine world. While I have been to various wine classes in Chicago, I felt there was more to learn.
While I’ve been writing and tasting it for over a year now, I haven’t had the classic training that many in the wine and spirits industry have. I knew I liked Bordeaux wines better than Pinot Noir, but I didn’t really know what that meant. It sometimes didn’t bother me because I think I have a pretty good nose for wine aromas, but increasingly, I felt unqualified and ignorant of particularities. I started searching for wine classes in Chicago, and came across a few different ones. About two months ago, I decided I wanted to take a WSET Level 1 class and accompanying WSET Level 1 exam.
Why WSET Level 1? Why not Some Other Wine Certifications?
It wasn’t until I attended Chicago Gourmet and met Cindy of Grape-Experiences.com that I considered taking a wine certification class. A teacher turned wine blogger, Cindy knows everyone in the industry and is so knowledgeable. Oh, and did I mention she’s a doll? So kind, thoughtful, smart, and genuine…just a pleasure! Anyway, she’s the kind of woman you should walk behind with a dictaphone because she has such insight into this world. She mentioned that she was WSET Level 2 (now 3!) certified and that it was a worthwhile investment into her own wine education not only for her career, but also for her own interest. She must have mentioned to me two or three times that I should take the WSET Level 1 class to learn more about wine. I came home from the event and almost immediately started looking into it.
I googled a few different options in the Chicagoland area and ultimately decided on taking the WSET Level 1 class through Fine Vintage Ltd. For $349 plus the cost of a set of tasting glasses, I would have a 9AM-5PM class of tasting and education along with the examination to receive the WSET Level 1 accreditation.
I Registered for a WSET Level 1 Class. What happens Next?
Upon registration and payment, I received a welcome email along with instructions to access a 42 page .pdf study guide for the class and 100 question multiple choice practice test. The study guide needed to be read before the wine class in Chicago. The packet included information about types of wine, types of grapes, characteristics of wine, food and wine pairing, and the standards of service for a wine professional. After not studying for a test in seven years–my orthotist assistant and orthotic fitter exams–I loved reading and studying the material. I took notes with different colored pens for headings and body paragraphs. It made me even more excited for the class.I knew I liked Bordeaux wines better than Pinot Noir, but I didn't know what that really meant. Click To Tweet
Wine Classes in Chicago: WSET Level 1 Class and WSET Level 1 Exam
I got to class and found a full room at City Winery Chicago. We started the day with introductions for the approximately 30 attendees. Most attendees were retired or had careers outside the hospitality industry and were looking to learn more about their hobby. Some were bartenders or worked in hospitality, and some were there for a fun girls weekend. Our examiners were two WSET Level 3 certified sommeliers and the aforementioned Cindy assisting in pouring wines for the class. We jumped right in with some morning champagne, slides, and videos and the discussion on wine went full speed ahead. While I spit much of my morning wines, most people had eaten breakfast and had no issue with swallowing each taste. The timing of wine tastings and lecturing were so balanced that not a soul was overserved! That may have been the most impressive part of the class.
The WSET Level 1 class was divided with white wine tastings before lunch and red wine tastings after lunch. We spent ample time discussing the characteristics of each grape variety we studied. Comparing wines side by side provided a great environment for learning and testing your knowledge. The Fine Vintage instructors occasionally included food pairings to try with the wines. We saw what pairings worked and did not work together. Note: I will never have desert with anything other than a dessert wine or digestif.
At the end of the wine class in Chicago, we sat for a 30 question multiple choice exam. I felt more than prepared for the test. While we had 45 minutes to finish the exam, most people were finished in just 20 minutes. It’ll be four to six weeks until I get the results of the exam. I feel very confident that I passed with a score over the 70% minimum required.
Is the WSET Level 1 Class Worth It?
I highly recommend this class for any wine lover or budding wine professionals. It was such a pleasant experience, really informative, and inspired my thirst for more knowledge! I don’t know if/when I will sit for WSET Level 2. In the meantime, I will take notes on wines I taste and continue to read about wine regions. I even got recommendations for books at the WSET Level 1 Class. The Wine Folly Essential Guide to Wine and the Wine Folly Master Guide are two I’m really excited about.