So I passed my Certified last year and am looking to continue to advance my wine knowledge as much as possible. In saying as such I am curious to hear some of the communities feedback on all there various certifications out there. I have enrolled in WSET3 this fall and was considering going for CSW as well. Is this too broad? Am I making too many lateral steps as opposed to forward?Please let me know
I’m taking WSET 3 currently. I think WSET 3 and CMS are roughly equivalent in the actual level of knowledge required (I only passed my intro CMS so far but I’m going based on talking to other people), with WSET 3 focusing more on winemaking style and CMS focusing more on producers and service (the only mention I can think of 75% of the way into my WSET 3 course so far is one sentence on the first growths). The distinction in what makes each exam difficult is that Certified obviously requires the service portion and WSET requires four essays on their exam, with two wines instead of 4 (you don’t have to identify varietal or specific vintage), but there’s also no list of testable varietals it could be pretty much anything.
For the tasting with WSET 3 you’ll have to become familiar with their systematic approach to tasting which in many ways is similar to CMS deductive tasting format but instead of just listing characteristics you have to distinguish them into primary secondary and tertiary.
Primary are basic fruit and certain non fruit characteristics such as minerality, secondary are decisions made by winemaker such as oak, lees contact, and MLF, and tertiary are characteristics that occur with age. Tertiary characteristics such as mushroom, leather, petrol. In other words, if you have a youthful Riesling expressing petrol aromas or flavors you can’t write it in your tasting note. Or a youthful Pinot noir with mushroom or youthful Brunello with leather, can’t write it in your tasting note because you’re only allowed to write those things for developing wines. This took a lot of getting used to for me.
All that said, my APP (Amanti Vino in NJ, the one in Montclair specifically) is amazing and I’m loving every minute of it. Im using it in part to help prepare me for Certified, as I’m sure the studying you did for Certified will be a huge advantage for you in your WSET 3 class/exam.
Hope that was helpful. Where are you taking WSET 3? Best of luck passing with distinction! Remember that nothing on multiple choice or essay is anything not in your 200 page textbook.
Thanks for all the information!
I'm taking it in Portland throughout the fall. I've had friends take and pass the exam. Ive heard it is similar but still very different. That's fine with me so long as I can get something out of it. My philosophy is that as long as I'm learning I'm getting closer to advanced...
Curious about the CSW too. It's a lot of money but if it is another lateral move I'll probably pass
I took WSET 3 a year ago in preparation for the Certified exam (which I passed in Feb). I think aside from the differences in the tasting grid that Kevin very well covered, the other big differences are how they want the information given back to them and what information is covered. WSET is very much focused on the business of wine, particularly in the global economy, as opposed to the serving of it, which is why so many people in distribution pursue that as opposed to CMS. I really enjoyed learning from my instructor, which was nice opposed to the self study of the court. The curriculum and exam really makes you think about the whys of wine, not just regurgitating facts. Why would this grape do well in these places, or why would it be different in these 2 climates. From what I understand, the exam is more similar in structure (with the essay aspects) to the Advanced exam, if the content not as difficult. I thought the Certified theory exam to be less difficult than the WSET by quite a bit. My 2 cents!
I passed the Certified Exam in 2016 and just took the CSW in April and passed. For what it's worth the CSW is easier than the certified exam, not just because of it's format only being a multiple choice test, and no tasting or theory, but because of the general difficulty of the curriculum. They do have a tricky way of wording things but I would say that if you already have the certified exam, you probably know what you need to know to pass. I will say the workbook is great though and really solid information. I took it because I am a Wine Educator and a Regional Trainer for a large retailer in Texas, so in planning to take the CWE the CSW is a requisite. WSET 3 is on my radar too though, if the Diploma was offered locally in my area I probably would've gone that route.
Am looking into the wine education field as well. This is really great feedback thankyou
I wrote about this some time back as, like yourself I had similar questions and wasn't finding the answers until I actually did courses and met more people. Hopefully it's of help!
If you are interested in wine education, I would recommend the Society of Wine Educators' CWE certification. Yes CSW is required as a first step, but I learned a lot about what I needed to know and how to teach it during the process of getting the CWE. I got my Intro and Certified Sommelier first before taking the CSW and then went on to get the CWE. That flow seemed to work pretty well.
I think WSET has made a big push in the American market in the last few years, trying to become the de-facto certification for wine knowledge here, but while their curriculum is very in-depth, it may not be for everyone. Service is not covered comprehensively and while comparing notes with friends who had experienced their curriculum into the diplomate program, they did not seem to me to instill the thought process of teaching, communicating and critical thinking, all skills required for being an educator, as much as I experienced with the CWE program. This is one of the reasons that Evan mentions the "tricky" wording in the CSW test above. It's not so much about memorizing the info as it is about digesting what you learned so you'll eventually be able to interpret it to others.
It may be splitting hairs, and I don't mean to rag on other certifications, they are all useful in different ways to those who pursue them, but if you are interested in wine education, the practice of organizing your thoughts and concisely answering questions that studying for the CWE gives is really helpful to becoming a good educator. The SWE has a strong academic constituency in their leadership and membership and while that might not be as sexy as the service or business portions of the business, it is a great help in learning to teach what you are passionate about to others effectively.
I hope this helps,
Great assessment. I took the exact same route. Intro, Certified, CSW, now onto CWE. In studying for the CWE exam I'm writing weekly essays on subjects that I cover, and I've found this to be a great self gauge of how well I know a topic. If I wasn't studying for the CWE, which has an essay requirement, I might not have stumbled upon this useful tool. Also, the requirement of a stellar presentation skills demonstration is something that has merit all across the wine and spirits business. At some point, no matter who you work for, you will be up in front of a room of people presenting on a topic. Preparing for the CWE is getting me better prepared for that task.
I would also add that there is much less focus on producers with the SWE, and more emphasis on production, marketing, emerging regions, geography etc.... The exam is different, because the aim is different. That said, I use Guildsomm constantly in my CWE studies. Facts are facts and the compendium here is the most amazing and up-to-date information on all the minutiae of any country's regional wine laws and requirements.
I could not agree more on that last point Evan! GuildSomm is the best resource available, no matter what certification you are pursuing, or just keeping up with things. I've been a member for about ten years now and it has been one of the best investments I have made in my wine education. I learn something every time I check-in.