Apologies to anyone who was expecting wine writing last week. As I mentioned, I was off in Sydney for the WSET Diploma Graduation dinner and then three days of courses. I had every intention of posting about the dinner, and then doing a write up of each day of the course, but the evening of the dinner was far to celebratory for me to undertake any writing immediately thereafter, and after the days of instruction I was busy preparing for the next day or catching a plane home. However, that’s all done, so I actually have a few spare moments to recap the week before I return to writing about wine.
First off, Graduation. We started the Diploma course with the Sydney Wine Academy just over two years ago, and the class had roughly 25 students. Over the two years that followed, some students dropped out, but we also had two join – one who had started the course in London and another who had been working independently. When the time came for the last exam, Unit 3, we were closer to 20. We were also joined by another outside student who had completed the course elsewhere except for the exam. In the end, we had 10 students pass the exam, and all were able to attend the dinner, though some who either didn’t take the exam in January or didn’t pass will do so over the next month.
[With regards to pass rates, having 50% of those taking the test is pretty good for the January exam, when the previous month is often very busy for those sitting it. Pass rates for the theory section of January exams were 34%, 49%, 53%, 50%, 42%, and 42% for 2011 through 2006 respectively. June pass rates for the theory exam were higher each of those years, in one case by as much as 20%.]
The event was held at Fix St. James in Sydney, which is known not just for excellent food, but particularly for their innovative approach to wine, their eclectic wine list, and the man behind all of it, Stuart Knox. The event was officiated by Clive Hartley, who administers the course through the Sydney Wine Academy, and Jude Mullins, who manages many of the international aspects of the WSET courses. Due to a schedule crunch, it was on the same night as a talk by Andrew Jefford, organized by the Wine Communicators of Australia. Many of those attending the talk came to the dinner as well, which meant the attendance was larger and more distinguished than it might have been otherwise, but that there were people who were there for the graduation and others who were really just there for the dinner. Still, I think everyone had a nice time, and most of the graduates snuck out at the end for a more intimate drink at a nearby wine bar. Oh, and then were was whisky. And then it got blurry. And then, all too quickly, it was time for class.
Yes, because the first thing you want to do after a big night is sit in a classroom so you can learn how to be an instructor, and that’s what I did not just the next day, but for the rest of the week. The timing of the dinner was in part motivated by Jude Mullins being in town, and part of the reason she was in Sydney was to teach the WSET Educator Training Programme. The number of WSET course providers in Australia has taken off over the last decade, and the value of the education provided is being increasingly appreciated within the industry which further increases demand.
The instructor course had very little to do with wines and spirits – you need to already have that knowledge to take the course. Instead, the emphasis was on what to teach and how to teach. Everyone taking the course knew more than they would be expected to teach, and it was more a matter of deciding what was most appropriate at each level of instruction offered. Fortunately, the WSET has very clear specifications for each course in terms of what students are expected to know at the start and what they need to know at the end. In addition to learning what to teach, we had a bit of time on the topic of how to teach. We finished the week by each student having to give a presentation on a tiny section of the course at Level 2, and then conducting a tasting at Level 3.
It was an interesting group of students, a dozen in total. Many were from large drinks companies and were planning on offering or upgrading their in-house education programmes. Others were involved in wine education or looking to soon be. Funnily enough, we had not only one Master of Wine as an instructor, but a second who was taking the class as a student.
I managed to survive not just getting to class after the big graduation celebration, but also put together and successfully delivered a halfway decent presentation, so I passed. Therefore, I am able to use the title “WSET Certified Educator”, though I’m not sure how well it squares with a blog called drunk.com.
Speaking of which, the witty and insightful wine writing you’ve come to expect from this blog will be returning with my next post. With the last wine post I hit the 50th varietal wine in my quest for a century, and I’m also closing in on my hundredth wine post, so there’s good stuff on the way. I have three empty bottles here on my desk to remind me that there are a great many notes waiting to be polished into posts. I’m not sure if anyone else is learning anything from this blog, but I certainly am, and now that I’m a Certified Educator, I’m sure my continuing self-education will be conducted at a much higher level.