In this new series, Wine Prep Courses student John will be sharing his thoughts on pursuing the WSET Level 3 Award in Wine

Diary of a WSET Level 3 student.JPG


I’m not in the wine trade but I’ve developed a fair interest in wine. Mainly by exposure from wine loving friends who’ve generously shared good bottles and by travels abroad. A trip through the Rhône opened my eyes to wine and made me curious to know more. Then a good friend who happens to work in wine took his WSET 3. Although it sounded pretty tough I thought ‘why not go for it too?’.

Deciding where to start - WSET 1, WSET 2, or WSET 3

Having had no professional exposure to wine I wasn’t sure whether I should just start with Level 1. My friend said it would be too easy (and that seemed to be the consensus in online forums too).

After I mentioned I was thinking of enrolling in WSET 1 he asked me ‘Do you know what Chardonnay tastes like?’ and then ‘What country is Burgundy in?’. When I answered correctly -yes - and -France- he told me to skip Level 1 and think about Level 2. I did some online research and saw I could start directly in Level 3 if I could pass an online quiz. Being someone who enjoys a challenge I figured I’d give it a go.

Challenging the online entrance test for WSET 3

I got a copy of the WSET Level 2 textbook (Wines and Spirits Looking Behind the Label) and read it a couple of times. It’s about 80 pages long and can be read in a few hours. It covers information on the different main grapes such as Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc and how wine is made step-by-step. If I’m honest it had me consider that starting with Level 2 may not be a bad idea (especially the section on Germany). You know, just in case the online test didn’t pan out.

It cost 25GBP to write the challenge test but if you pass you can apply this amount as credit towards the course fee. After I signed up WSET sent over a link to a timed online test platform. The test is multiple choice. Each question has four possible answers.

I found that many of the questions were pulled directly from highlighted sections in the book. I had 45 minutes to answer 50 questions. Some were super easy and others I had to read through a few times. I won’t write any of the questions here verbatim as WSET may reuse them but just know that if you have read the text they will not seem too hard or unfair. At least one and sometimes two of the possible answers could be rejected almost right away.

But you do have to get a whopping 90% of the questions correct in order to pass. WSET do tell you right away after the test is completed whether you passed or failed.

I started getting test anxiety as I worked through the quiz and my heart was really pumping at the end. I’d forgotten how stressful exams can be. Especially when I hit the ‘done’ button and my results were being calculated.

After what felt like ages but I’m sure was only a few seconds my results flashed up onscreen. A pass! What a relief but also a bit nerve wracking as now I was in for some serious study.

Course supplies arrive

My WSET kit arrived a couple weeks after registering for the course. It was a bit like Christmas opening everything up to see just what I’d embarked on. The first thing I noticed was that the WSET Level 3 text book was substantially thicker than the Level 2 one. The pack also contained a laminated sheet on how I was to taste wine called the ‘Level 3 Systematic approach to Tasting Wine’ and a Study Guide with sample test questions and lots of maps. There was also a Specification which summarized the many different wine regions we’d be covering.

It’s been a long time since I’ve needed to study for a test so right now I feel a mixture of excitement (about tasting some really good wine) and a bit of dread (about just how I’m going to pass this exam and whether I am in too deep)!

Next steps

First thing first I think will be to read through the new text to get my bearings on the material. I’ve also enrolled in Rachel’s Level 3 Prep course which I think will be a big help in tackling the content. There are 200 pages in the text book and I figure I can fit in an hour of reading each morning on the ride to work. Hopefully that’s enough to get through it in the next week. There’s a lot of geography in there so the online quizzes will hopefully help with memorization. I’m also looking forward to tasting some wine next week. Wish me luck!


12 red wines. 2 1/4 hours. Everyone, sharpen your palates, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

12 red wines. 2 1/4 hours. Everyone, sharpen your palates, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Whenever I have the chance to taste with Master of Wine students, I leap at it. I’m not an MW student, so it’s an amazing opportunity to learn (especially when considering whether to apply in June).

What kind of questions are the students asked, how do they compose their answers, what logic are they using as they taste?

Last weekend, I sat a mock Paper 2 exam. There were 12 wines to taste, all of them red, and we had two and a quarter hours to write the exam. There were three flights within the 12 wines, and each flight had a set of questions relating to those particular wines. In this article, I’m going to focus on one cleverly presented flight of wines from within the mock exam, not only because it stumped everybody, but also as it hammered home a few key takeaway points on blind tasting exams in general.

Wines poured and we’re off to the races

Wines poured and we’re off to the races

The flight had four red wines, and in the mock exam it was the last of the three flights. On the instruction sheet, we’re told they’re all from the same country and that each is a blended wine. For each wine, we must: identify the origin as closely as possible, assess its quality in context of its origin, and comment on its maturity level.

Here are my notes:

Wine 1 - Med+ ruby with hint of purple. Deepest colour of flight. Medium tears. Musty aroma. Med+ intensity dark berry, smoky spice, oak suggests USA. Med body, med acid, med+ velvety tannins, med/+ alc ~13.5%, smooth/no edges.

Wine 2 - Med- ruby, watery rim, sheeting tears. Med- intensity red fruit, earthy, not getting a lot of scent. High acidity, med+ alc ~14%, crunchy raspberry. Very concentrated.

Wine 3 - Med ruby tending to garnet, rim is showing some age. Med tears. Med+ intensity, US pickle oak, red fruit, soft spice. Perfumed. Very high acidity, high tannins, very bright flavours. Has some age.

Wine 4 - Med ruby. Med+ intensity, game, smoke, rock, dusty. Med body, med alc, balanced. Youthful.

Lesson 1: My notes, taken at the tail end of the exam, are not up to snuff. I’ve gotten tired, and have skipped some important categories. Because I haven’t rigorously assessed the wines, it makes it much harder to draw conclusions based on the question. I have overtasted all 12 wines, going back to them over and over because I can’t place them, leading to palate fatigue (and very dark red teeth). I nosed through all 12 to begin, and left this flight till last because it was the deepest coloured and most pronounced set.

Takeaway: stick to your note taking system, whether it is a grid, cross, or other. Minimize how often you taste each wine to avoid palate fatigue, for example only taste each sample twice.

Lesson 2: This was a rather sly question as written, because unless you were careful, it was easy to draw the wrong conclusions. The question tells us that all four wines are from the same country, but doesn’t mention region. It tells us they are all blends, but doesn’t say anything about them being the same blend. When I brainstormed red blends, at first I was trying to come up with four different blends for each country. But, after re-reading, I saw that these could be all the same blend, or all different, from the same region, or from many regions in one country. I also grasped on the second read through that the question was not even asking for us to ID grapes, but to comment on origin and maturity.

Takeaway: re-read the question to clarify your understanding of it matches up with what the examiner is asking you to do. Having an incorrect understanding of the question’s goal will set you down the wrong path.

Lesson 3: So, I had re-read the question and noted what it was really asking. Based on the tasting, I reasoned this was an old world wine region, with warm climate. Then, I made my list of possible origins. Here were my three top choices:

- Italy

- Spain

- France

…but guess what? The place the wines came from is not even on that list. So, I’d spent my time working from an incomplete assessment of the wines, trying to fit them in to a region, but none quite fit.

Takeaway: if you’re making a list of possible regions, or grapes, have a stand by memorized list that you work from. For example, I should have had a full list of warm climate countries known for blends ready in my brain. Because, if the answer is not even in your long list, it will never appear in your answer!

So, where were our mystery red blends from? The guesses at the table ranged from Spain, to France, and Italy. But it was:

Wines L>R 1-2-3-4

Wines L>R 1-2-3-4

PORTUGAL! Of course. A warm climate, lots of red blends, old world. It wasn’t even on my radar. Whoops! Lesson learned.

Hope you enjoyed this summary, and happy blind tasting. If you have any suggestions or blind tasting tips, please leave a comment below.

Cheers & Cin Cin,


Wines from L>R 4 - 3 - 2 -1

Wines from L>R 4 - 3 - 2 -1


2019 planning your year in wine

The question for 2019: How do you stay excited about wine, fit in ongoing learning, all while staying interested and avoiding wine ennui?  

I'm at that in between stage: post Diploma and considering the MW; definitely wanting to keep my knowledge fresh, and most importantly to stay curious and inspired about wine.

My planning for the year started with 1) travel (Porto, Paso Robles), added in 2) some wine festivals and seminars (Vancouver Wine Fest, will I see you there?), and sprinkled in a liberal dose of 3) tastings, 4) books, and 5) wine buying. That way there's something to look forward to on the calendar each and every month. There's still time to plan out your year, here's an outline of my plan to stay excited about wine this year, and how you can make your own plan too.


I start with travel so that it actually happens! If I leave things to later, invariably, things get ‘too busy’ or something or another comes up to thwart vague plans. This year, it’s a mix of big trips and closer to home mini-breaks (Bridget Jones ref here). That way I have trips to plan for and look forward to, and room for surprises too!

March - Walla Walla (returning to explore and see what’s changed in the past few years)

April - Lisbon, Porto, Douro (my dream trip, Port is my #1, the big one for the year), plus London to judge at the IWSC, Verona, & Bordeaux

June - Willamette Valley (Pinot hound here, ready to scour for the cellar)

Oct - Paso Robles (never been before, love the wines, looking for your recommendations)


Next, I look into the wine festivals happening through the year. My favourite is Vancouver Wine Fest (VIWF). It’s well run, brings fantastic wineries around the world, and also puts on top class tastings. This year’s theme region is California, and I’ve already registered for several seminars (hope to see you there!). I’ll also be attending Vinitaly in Verona this spring. If there’s a festival you think I should add, please comment below and let me know.


APR - Vinitaly


I attend a smattering of trade tastings and blind tasting groups, but starting in Feb, will be running a blind tasting group geared specifically towards Level 3 students. A good friend is taking WSET Level 3 online after challenging Level 2 (he’s a professional from outside the wine trade), and I’m organizing biweekly sessions geared to getting his palate ready for the exam. This is a great opportunity for me to buy classic wines and do some review too! I’ll also continue mock MW exams in the lead up to applying to the program in June > if you’re thinking of applying, please send me a message to be included in my pre-MW online study group.

Another option in this vein is wine clubs. Generally, I don’t like signing up because I don’t want too many wines from the same producer, but I do belong to Turley and Ridge (classic, and always welcome gifts and popular with guests).

FEB-APR - biweekly Level 3 tasting sessions

MAR-JUN - Mock MW exams to prepare for applying to the program in June


Are you like me in that you have a billion wine books in piles everywhere? OK, that’s hyperbole, but there are so many good books and only so much time to read them, plus it’s so easy these days to order yet another. I’ve set out a book schedule, that way it isn’t so daunting to see the stack, and here it is. Hope you’ll join in my ‘informal wine book club’ :)

FEB - Sommelier’s Atlas of Taste by Rajat Parr

MAR - Vines & Vinification by Sally Easton MW (the new WSET textbook)

APR - Volcanic Wines by John Szabo MS

MAY - The Wines of Burgundy by Silvain Pitiot

JUN - Bordeaux Chateau: A History of the Grands Crus

JUL - Champagne by Peter Liem

AUG - Wine Folly: Magnum Edition by Madeline Puckette

SEPT - Reading Between the Wines by Terry Theise

OCT - Barolo & Barbaresco by Kerin O’Keefe

NOV - The Wines of New Zealand by Rebecca Gibb

DEC - Wine and War by Donald and Petie Kladstrup


One of my favourite audiobooks is by Brian Tracy. In it, he says that the number one indicator of success in any person is how far into the future they are able to plan for. That got me thinking about wine. A statistic commonly thrown about is that almost all wine is consumed within hours of being purchased. Not only does having wine on hand make it remarkably fun and easy to host dinner parties (Oh, you like Italian reds… would you prefer a Barolo or a Chianti, honoured guest?), and saves times during holiday rushes (no need to race to the wine shop), but there is real joy in researching and purchasing wine with the intent of cellaring it. Maybe this is old hat to you, but it’s only in the last few years I’ve started to do this, and with serious intent over the past two.

I can’t plot this on a calendar like I did with items 1-4 above, but I can share that I give myself leeway to buy two wine purchases a month! There are criteria though! The wine must be ageworthy for the next 10+ years, ideally come from a classic region (aka blind tastable), and a recognized producer. Bonus points for high value to price ratio (aka I’m not generally buying expensive Bordeaux, but I do like Port and Champagne). This means by the end of a year, I will have set aside between 6-12 cases of ageworthy wine within my budget.

To start, if you don’t already subscribe to your local wine importer or wine store newsletters, it’s a great thing to do. Some of my favourites are Somm Select, Kermit Lynch, and Sedimentary Wines. Not only are their emails fun to read with an eye to investing, but you pick up great wine producer knowledge along the way.

So, there’s 2019 all planned out and ready to tackle with aplomb! Cheers and thanks for reading! I hope you’ll share some tidbits or suggestions in the comments.



Facing down the D3 (Unit 3) exam? I’ve polled my Diploma Prep students who’ve recently been successful in their exams, to see what they found helpful as they prepared.

Here are the most popular suggestions:

1) Start At The End

This is a big exam, and the curriculum is massive. Sometimes, it helps to orient yourself at the end before beginning your studies. That means, reading the Candidate Assessment Guide, and reviewing past exams to look at exactly what is being asked of you in the exam. That way, as you complete the readings and take your notes, you will be doing it with an eye to the exam.

Action Step: Review the CAG and past exams. Make a list of past exam questions by question type.

2) Use Your ‘Spare’ Time

Having a regular study schedule, and ideally a dedicated study space, is very important. But there’s also time in your day that you can fill with studies. That means, downloading podcasts for the train, having youtube videos playing while you cook dinner, and flashcards while waiting for just about anything. This ‘found’ time adds up. One app suggested as a time filler by several students is Voice Dream (you can add all kinds of documents and have the app read them out loud to you - such as chapters of the OCW or your unit’s reading materials. Bonus: you get to choose the voice!).

Action Step: Add podcasts, videos, and apps to your weekly study list. For some ideas, see Resources.

3) Cut Out TV, Internet Browse Time & Most Social Media

This won’t be very popular, but cutting these out, or reducing them, will add significantly to your study time. Social Media can be a time suck, try sticking to focused and topical browsing (think tasting events and wine critics, not pictures of your cousin’s new boat).

Action Step: Choose your ‘can’t miss’ media, and cut out the rest.

4) Low & Slow, or Cram Plan

There are two main paths to the D3 (Unit 3) Diploma exam, slow and steady, or desperately and all at once (hands up, all procrastinators!). The students who’ve performed the best overwhelmingly come from the Low & Slow group. Yes, you can cram for a few weeks before the exam and might pass, especially if you have a strong wine background. However, studying a little each day, consistently each week, several months in advance is the way to succeed.

Action Step: Create a weekly study calendar and stick with it.

5) Positive Mindset

A student had tried several times to pass their exam but been unsuccessful. Maybe they should give up? Never! My advice, is to write on your mirror, on your fridge, put it on your wallpaper: “I’ve passed the D3 exam with Distinction”. WSET students have to adopt this type of positive thinking, visualizing their success regularly, in order to keep up the motivation necessary for all the studying. Yes, it’s a little unorthodox, but it works.

Action Step: Write positive statements about your success, everywhere!

If you want some extra help preparing for your exam, be sure to check out the D3 (Unit 3) Prep Course. It’s a system to guide you through your studies in an organized and strategic way, with the ultimate goal of passing your exam successfully.


WSET Level 3 Review

Q: Hi Rachel, I've got my Level 3 WSET exam coming up in three weeks and don't feel ready for the theory portion. We tasted a lot in class and I feel good about my tasting ability. After procrastinating for so long on theory maybe I should just reschedule the exam. What do you think, can I still pass?

A: Thanks for your question! I can definitely relate to your situation. When I was studying for Level 3, it was while I was on a summer contract as a yacht chef. I stayed up late to get an hour or two of reading and flashcards each night, but the exam was coming up fast. 

If you can devote a solid block of time each day to your studies, and even more for the week prior to the exam, here's an intensive, fast track plan for your studies.

The #1 challenge here will be to maintain a consistent study practice. This schedule is rigorous but doable, if you are doing a bit each day. If you miss a few days, it will be very difficult to catch up without losing sleep. 

Reading & Note Schedule (WSET Understanding Wines textbook)

Below is the full schedule, but before you jump in, I wanted to share a sample of my notes from the latest WSET textbook for Level 3. I allow myself 5 minutes per page, and that means writing fast! I jot down only the key information from each page.

For this note on Beaujolais, I spent less than 5 minutes for the two pages. Yes, that's really quick but you'll need to be going at a pace like this to get through the ~200 pages of material. 

Title your sheet with the region name, and reference the page numbers.

Give your notes headings so you can easily review later on. Also, draw graphics, such as the hierarchy for Beaujolais. Making sketches like this help you to retain the information.

Drawings and sketches in your notes help you to retain the information

Drawings and sketches in your notes help you to retain the information

Week 1 - Read Section 3: Still Wines of the World & Take Notes

This week, you'll cover the still wines of the world from Understanding Wines.

Day 1: pg 77-89 (Introduction to France, Bordeaux, Dordogne & SW France, Burgundy)

Day 2: pg 90-107 (Beaujolais, Alsace, Loire, Rhône, Southern France)

Day 3: pg 108-119 (Germany, Austria, Tokaj, Greece)

Day 4: pg 120-138 (Italy, Spain)

Day 5: pg 139-155 (Portugal, USA, Canada, Chile)

Day 6: pg 156-172 (Argentina, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand)

Day 7: Flex Day - Take a break or review your notes!

Week 2 - Read Sections: 4, 5, 1, 2 & Take NOTES

This week, you'll work through the remaining sections from Understanding Wines.

Day 1: pg 173-183 (Sparkling Wine)

Day 2: pg 184-195 (Sherry, Port, Fortified Muscats)

Day 3: pg 1-18 (Systematic Approach to Tasting Wine, Wine with Food, Storage & Service of Wine)

Day 4: pg 19-32 (Vine, Growing Environment)

Day 5: pg 33-54 (Vineyard Management, Common Elements in Winemaking & Maturation)

Day 6: pg 55-70 (White & Sweet Winemaking, Red & Rosé Winemaking)

Day 7: pg 71-76 (Factors that Affect the Price of Wine, Wine & the Law)


Devote as much time as possible to your review this week. Remember to get up from your chair each hour to stretch and drink water. Most importantly, get proper sleep each night to be in your best form for exam day.

Below is a sample of how I review before an exam. Taking the WSET Level 3 Specification, open it to the topic you are reviewing. Take a blank page of paper and brainstorm what you can remember for the given subject. Check against your syllabus, and review your notes from weeks 1 & 2 to refresh your memory.

Refer to the Level 3 Specification as you review

Refer to the Level 3 Specification as you review

Day 1: Review Section 3 - France, Germany, Austria, Tokaj, Greece

Day 2: Review Section 3 - Italy, Spain, Portugal, USA, Canada, Chile, Argentina, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand

Day 3: Review Sections 4, 5, 1 - Sparkling, Sherry, Port, Fortified Muscats, Wine & the Consumer

Day 4: Review Section 2 - Factors Affecting the Style, Quality & Price of Wine

Day 5: Review Sections 3 & 2

Day 6: Review Sections 3 & 2

Day 7: Exam Day


Some of the WSET material reads like a stereo manual, so I've parsed through it to decipher what exactly they'll be focusing on in the exam. The five major topics (aka 'Learning Outcomes') are:

Learning Outcome 1: {VINEYARD/WINEMAKING} ID the principal natural and human factors in the vineyard and winery that are involved in the production of still wines of the world, and explain how they can influence the style, quality and price of these wines.

Learning Outcome 2: {STILL WINES OF THE WORLD} ID & describe the characteristics of the still wines produced in the principal wine producing regions of the world and explain how the key natural and human factors in the vineyard, winery, law and commerce can influence the style, quality and price of these wines.

Learning Outcome 3: {SPARKLING WINES} ID & describe the characteristics of the principal sparkling wines of the world and explain how the key natural and human factors in the vineyard, winery, law and commerce can influence the style, quality and price of these wines.

Learning Outcome 4: {PORT/SHERRY/MUSCATS} ID & describe the characteristics of the principal fortified wines of the world and explain how the key natural and human factors in the vineyard, winery and law can influence the style, quality and price of these wines.

Learning Outcome 5: {WINE RECOMMENDATIONS/WINE FAULTS/FOOD & WINE PAIRING/SOCIAL & HEALTH ISSUES} Demonstrate the ability to provide information and advice to customers and staff about wines.


There are four short answer questions on the exam, at 25 marks a piece. Below, you'll see the possible topics.


-Short answer questions relating to Sparkling and Fortified can appear on only one of the four questions (Weighting 20%)

-Vineyard/Winemaking topics will come up on all four questions (Weighting not specified, assume 100%)

-Still Wines of the World topics can come up on three of the questions (Weighting 70%)

-Wine Recommendations/Wine Faults/Food & Wine Pairing/Social & Health Issues can come up on two of the questions (Weighting 10%)

These are the materials being tested for the short paragraph questions in WSET LEVEL 3 exams

These are the materials being tested for the short paragraph questions in WSET LEVEL 3 exams


Remember, you only need 55% to pass, and a third of your theory mark will be made up of multiple choice questions. This means that if you have a familiarity with the textbook, this section should be straightforward (and yes, you should go with your first instinct for multiple choice, unless you are sure you should not change your answer). 

There are 50 multiple choice questions on the exam. Below you'll see WSET's breakdown of the exam topics.


Outcome 1: {VINEYARD/WINEMAKING} 16% or 8/50 questions

Outcome 2: {STILL WINES OF THE WORLD} 56% or 28/50 questions

Outcome 3: {SPARKLING WINES} 10% or 5/50 questions

Outcome 4: {PORT/SHERRY/MUSCATS} 10% or 5/50 questions


These are the weightings for the multiple choice questions in the WSET LEVEL 3 exams

These are the weightings for the multiple choice questions in the WSET LEVEL 3 exams

The lesson here if you are very short on study time, is to cover everything, but in particular give focus to Outcome 1: {VINEYARD/WINEMAKING} & Outcome 2: {STILL WINES OF THE WORLD}.

If you would like more help with your studies, be sure to check out my Level 3 Theory Prep course, which is chock full of flashcards and review quizzes for the curriculum.

Best of luck with your studies and let me know how it goes!

Cheers & Cin Cin,



wine region websites

This is a regularly updated list of regional wine & spirit websites. Please submit your suggestions or changes in the comments section.



Wines of Argentina


Wine Australia


Clare Valley Rocks


Margaret River

McLaren Vale

New South Wales



Western Australia


Austrian Wine


Wines of Brasil



Nova Scotia



Wines of Chile



Vin de France

Anivins de France





Bordeaux & Bordeaux Supérieur



Côtes de Bordeaux

Côtes de Bourg


Francs Côtes de Bordeaux

Lalande de Pomerol




Montagne Saint-Émilion






Sweet Bordeaux







Loire Valley Wines



Rhône Valley


South West






Wines of Germany


New Wines of Greece



Alto Adige



Emilia-Romagna (Lambrusco)



Lazio (Frascati)




Piedmont - Consorzio Barolo Barbaresco Alba Langhe e Dogliani






Tuscany - Brunello

Tuscany - Chianti

Tuscany - Chianti Classico

Tuscany - Vino Nobile di Montepulciano



Koshu of Japan 


Lebanon Wines


Consejo Mexicano


New Zealand Wine



Central Otago

Gimblett Gravels


Hawke's Bay





Wines of Portugal




Vinho Verde


Wine Romania


Wines of South Africa

Cap Classique


Wines from Spain



Rias Baixas

Ribera Del Duero






Wines of Turkey


Wine GB


California Wine Institute

Discover California Wines



Napa Valley

Paso Robles

Russian River Valley

Sonoma Valley

New York Wines

Oregon Wine

Willamette Valley

Washington State Wine

Yakima Valley 



Moscatel de Setúbal


Rutherglen Muscat


VDN - Rasteau

VDN - Muscat de Beaumes de Venise

VDN - Muscat de St Jean de Minervois



Bourbon - Kentucky Distillers' Association

Brandy de Jerez


Irish Whiskey Association

Scotch Whisky Association

West Indies Rum



Bidding is now open, closing on Sunday June 3 at noon, for the E-Auction Napa Valley. You can check out the lots here:

Here are some highlights from the 150+ lots in the e-auction that I'm putting a bid in for:

520 Decant with Elegance - 24 bottles of wine and a fancy Riedel decanter

551 A Stags Leap Experience - 15 bottles of Napa wine & 4 tickets to the 2019 Vineyard to Vitner weekend 

436 Discover Los Carneros - 13 bottles of Napa wine & a luxury weekend for 2 in Carneros


Barrel lots open for bidding tomorrow, June 2nd, from 11am PST to 3pm. You can take a peek at the barrel lot goodness (110 to peruse) here:

Proceeds support community health and children’s education non-profits in Napa, including the Napa Valley Community Disaster Relief Fund. Since 1981, wine lovers from around the world have raised more than $180 million for local nonprofit associations. To browse the lots and register as an online bidder, visit 

Happy bidding!




start a wine study group

Hello fellow student of wine! I've had several requests to help peeps find a local wine study group. I thought you may find it helpful to have a place to leave a comment if you're seeking study partners or tasting groups.

Be sure to mention your study level (ie Diploma, WSET Level 3...) and your region.

Cheers, Rachel


changes to wset diploma 2019

WSET have announced substantial changes to their Level 2, Level 3, and Level 4 programs. 

They're separating courses into three different streams: Wine, Spirits, and Sake. Here's a summary of what will be changing and when.

Changes to the WSET Diploma:

-The new Diploma program starts as of August 2019, focuses exclusively on wines, and includes 5 units. They are: D1, D2, D3, D4, & D5.

-Students currently in the Diploma have until the June 2019 exams to finish using the existing program structure. Those who have already passed Unit 4 and are transferred into the new program will still receive a Diploma in Wines & Spirits, as opposed to a Diploma in Wines. The June 2019 exams will be the last using the existing curriculum (for the Diploma Spirits unit, there will be a resit exam in March 2020 for those who failed in June 2018 to still achieve the Diploma of Wines & Spirits, see the notes at the bottom of this section). Those who are part way through the Diploma program after the June 2019 exams will be automatically transferred over to the new program, and will have credit for their units applied to the new curriculum units which launch in August 2019.

-Spirits is being carved out of the new Diploma, which will focus solely on wines (Level 3 Spirits will be a new, separate program, echoing the removal of spirits content from the Level 3 in Wine).

-Unit 3 Light Wines of the World will be of longer duration. I had asked WSET last year about whether they would split the curriculum into two shorter units, based on the low passing rates for Unit 3 Theory. They said it was a challenge in deciding how such a split would be organized, and have opted to keep the curriculum together but give students more time to study. The new unit will be called D3 Wines of the World. There will continue to be both a Theory and a Tasting exam, but these will be held over two consecutive days instead of on the same day. Students will now be given more time to complete the exams.

-Unit 5 Sparkling (new name D4) & Unit 6 Fortifieds (new name D5) unit exams will continue to have both a Theory (short answer open response) and a Tasting portion of exams. Students will be given more time to complete the exams than under current rules.

-A new 3,000 word research paper will be added, called the D6 Research Assignment, with subjects relating to current wine trends. Students mid-way through the Diploma who have passed their Unit 1 Coursework Assignment will receive credit for D6.

-The way the exam is structured will change for the Unit 2 Wine Production & Unit 1 Business of Alcohol units. These will become: D1 Wine Production, and D2 Wine Business. Both will have final exams based on short answer, open response questions. Students who are partway through the Diploma and have passed their Case Study will receive credit for D2, (as mentioned above, those who have passed their Coursework Assignment will get credit for D6).

-Students who completed the Diploma in Wines & Spirits will continue to use the nominal DipWSET, which will also be used by graduates of the new curriculum.

-From WSET's website: "The WSET Level 4 Diploma in Wines and Spirits will be permanently withdrawn on 31 July 2019, with the launch of the new WSET Level 4 Diploma in Wines on 1 August 2019.  All students enrolled on the current Diploma will be automatically transferred to the WSET Level 4 Diploma in Wines in September 2019. 

Spirits will not be part of the new Diploma, but there will be one final Unit 4 Spirits examination for resit-only candidates in March 2020.  All students transferring with a pass in Unit 4 or who gain a pass in March 2020 will graduate with the WSET Diploma in Wines and Spirits upon completion of all Units."  

See WSET's video on the new program and transition information for current Diploma students here.

Changes to WSET Spirits Programs:

-New is a WSET Level 3 Award in Spirits - launching Aug 1 2019. The new curriculum will include Asian spirits: Baijiu, Soju and Shochu. The final exam will include both a blind tasting of two spirits, and a written paper (which will include multiple-choice questions, plus a short answer section). The pre-req to get into Level 3 Spirits is the Level 2 Spirits course.

Changes to WSET Level 2:

-As of Aug 1 2019, WSET Level 2 will focus solely on wines; spirits content will have been separated out to a Level 2 Spirits course.

How will this effect Wine Prep Courses?

I love working with WSET students, and will continue to support you as you study for your WSET Level 4 Diploma exams, using the current curriculum until the June 2019 exams (and until March 2020 for the Unit 4 Spirits exam). Students who are freshly embarking on the Diploma and those who are already studying Level 4 are welcome to enroll in the Prep Courses for each unit, and will continue to have access to the updated Prep Course for their applicable unit as the materials are updated after the August 2019 relaunch at no additional cost (aka enroll in Fortifieds Unit 6 Prep and continue with Fortifieds D5 Prep after Aug 2019).

Wine Prep Students in Level 3 Wines can continue to study via the current Level 3 Wine Prep course which was recently created for those in the new WSET curriculum.

Cheers & Cin Cin,




Here's a list of wine apps designed for wine students & serious enthusiasts to study with:




iTunes / Google Play


iTunes / Google Play


iTunes / Google Play

Rhône Valley

Desktop (music on opening)



iTunes / Google Play

Chianti Classico

iTunes / Google Play


iTunes / Google Play

South Africa



Napa Valley

iTunes / Google Play

Have a suggestion to add to this list? Send me a message or leave a comment below!

Cheers, Rachel