WSET vs CMS deductive tasting methods

What are the pros and cons of the two formats and how would you like to see the deductive tasting method develop?


  • I've learned both and they have their pros and cons. I find that the WSET system is faster to get into memory while the CMS Grid takes longer to really train yourself to and be religious about. But, once both are memorized, I like the CMS system for arriving to conclusions on blind tasting as WSET has a lot of faff in that regard. CMS is also a faster system to run through on a wine which is of course by nature of design for the exams.

    But then again, I think if you've only learned CMS, you're a bit stymied in terms of judging a wine's value. I've judged with people who are far more advanced than myself but only rely on CMS and seem to be a bit in the wilderness in terms of "standard" scoring. Those who learn WSET and have a more global approach tend to do much better. This is purely casual observance though and doesn't make for hard facts but it's not a fluke that those who really fly up the CMS levels quickly have completed the WSET Diploma as well.

    For exams of which ever track you pick, obviously you need to learn that exact format but in real life I think most people derive their own soup out of whatever they've learned.

    So, is one "better" than the other? Not at all, but I feel that each have their own applications. The key is that these systems are both pretty rigid to arrive to conclusions and you have to be open to breaking them from time to time in case Georgian Otskhanuri Sapere, Jura Vin Jaune, or a future vitis martianus cross your path.

  • My two cents for what it’s worth: I’m pretty to new to all this stuff but I think, ultimately, although CMS is more service on the dining room floor oriented and WSET less so, they’re both geared toward ensuring, ultimately, getting the best beverage for the customer and being able to explain the wines to the guest/customer. Seems like people get a little caught up in the exam aspect of it and forget that the point of both organizations is to inform the customer what they’re drinking and give them the best drink for the best price. I think both grids are more about being able to make an informed analysis then “get the wine right.” I believe theory informs tasting and visa versa. It’s all about the guest. Not that exams aren’t important, but the whole point is to serve the guest/customer.

  • I really don't see them as being that different. If you compare the Advanced Grid to the Diploma WSET SAT, sight, nose, and palate are basically the same. WSET puts a lot of emphasis on quality at the end, CMS puts a lot of emphasis on identifying the wine. The goals of the conclusions are different, as is what you write or say at the end, but the basis for getting there is pretty much the same. WSET may say Lemon while CMS prefers straw, but sight, nose, and palate are just not that different.

    I personally think if you're a good taster you can run either one you want. Ray Charles recorded a country album, man. How? Because he was a musician who understood music rather than just a "rhythm and blues" guy who played a genre. Be like Ray and run them all so you can hang in any jam session.  

  • Waiting for to come over the top with a definitive exposé....

  • I think they are basically the same but analyzed in different orders. I like that on the palate the WSET analyzes structure first. I feel that keeps one from jumping to conclusions. The CMS however, at least on written exams, gives you more prompts of what to look for in terms of flavors which is helpful at first--having a checklist. Whereas the WSET just gives you boxes for Appearance, Nose and Palate. However at the advanced levels for both you aren't getting any checkboxes when tested so as long as you can memorize all the things you need to analyze I think they are equally effective. Although even doing CMS I try to think about structure first...but that is what helps me. 

  • For studying purposes the WSET Diploma now has implemented clusters of flavors starting out with

    Primary Aromas and Flavors

    Secondary Aromas and Flavors

    Tertiary Aromas and Flavors

    These are then broken down into individual clusters for each flavor type within that cluster

    Primary Aromas and Flavors/stone fruit/peach, apricot, nectarine and so on.

    This allows the student to organize their thoughts and helps in remembering the clusters and subsequent flavors  in writing their tasting notes.

    Here is a link to the Level 4 SAT, sheet see page 2