Education – Self or Official Certification Programs ?

Ok so now that I have jumped onto the internet blog bandwagon here’s a quick update on some key things.  We know I have passion, practice, and interest.  I’m self taught and have visited too many tasting rooms to list.  But I want more..  Recently I went to a friends birthday gathering, the theme was a wine tasting party conducted by a Sommelier.   While I may not have been the professor sitting in the room, I did know the a majority of the information that she was sharing.  We did a tasting of 9 different wines, in 4 different segments: Chardonnay, Rhone Reds, Bordeaux Reds, and dessert wines.  Each segment offered a tremendous range, showing the guests the diversity of wine. 

I loved it and will go into the differences and walk you through the tasting in another post someday.  The point here was that my passion was on fire.  I spoke with the “instructor” who strongly suggested that I pursue my interest in formal training.  This is where the true confusion began – where does one  go and how to begin?

In doing my standard google searches, I ran across what would later come to be known by me as the “big boys” of wine education – Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET), Society of Wine Educators (SWE), and Court of Masters (COM).  I think I’ve ruled out the Court of Masters programs as they are highly geared to on-premise personnel training (restaurant/hotel/bar workers). While the program looks informative, I don’t think its for me.

This leaves me bouncing between WSET and SWE programs and I can admit that I’m frustrated, confused and excited, and back to frustrated.  Here in Los Angeles there is a well known local wine retailer that offers the WSET Intermediate program that I am interested in to get started.  I think this is the one I’ll take.  On the other hand, the SWE offers training materials and a test for their CSW (Certified Specialist of Wine) which has tremendous appeal for me as well.  Oooh ok, well maybe this one.  I think I’ve ruled out any of the local college/university programs, but maybe not as some of them seem to offer a nice, base level education, maybe to be used as a lead in for the CSW exam.   See, told you, I’m confused.

What to do?  Both of these two programs offer what I want, nice well rounded, recognized, wine education.  One is more of a home study that you do in conjunction with other outside courses, and one is a sit down seminar series.  I do know or think I know that I want a weekly seminar type program, I want tasting involved (partially to learn, and partially to drink), and I want a recognized exam at the end (ideally one that I can pass).  Each of the above looks very cool and I’m interested. 

Anyone know which way to go?  Advise?  Thoughts?  What have you taken??

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3 Responses to Education – Self or Official Certification Programs ?

  1. brandi says:

    you’ve probably gotten your answer by now but I’d suggest the path that you have the most time for. but my choice would be the seminar.

  2. Lisa says:

    As someone who lived out in SF for a couple of years and enjoyed tasting quite a bit, I recently took the plunge and started taking courses at The Wine School in Philadelphia. Its been great and I’ve learned so much. Other people I know have gone the WSET direction and enjoyed it. Good luck.

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