Tuesday, October 4, 2016

WSET Diploma Earned - Onto a Brave New World

WSET Diploma certificate and pin arrived!
In December 2013 I earned my Advanced Certificate from the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET). Two years, six exams, and 2 papers later, I have officially earned my Diploma in Wines and Spirits!

Most important is all that I have learned in the process, which has been both humbling and inspiring. I never wish to stop challenging myself, and I want to keep learning. That said, it is a wonderful feeling to have officially achieved such a milestone as earning the WSET Diploma.

The Diploma program represents the highest level (4) that the WSET offers. As I neared the end of my journey - my last exam having been Fortified Wines - I was continually asked, "So, what's next?"

Well, most (sane) people are justifiably content with their Diploma, as earning it is quite an ordeal. For those who truly wish to go farther in their studies, there is the Master of Wine, arguably one of the highest qualifications of professional knowledge of wine - the other being the Master Sommelier qualification, which is focused on the service industry and equally mind-blowing in its own way.   

But ... pursuing the Master of Wine? That's just crazy. It would be insanity to embark on this path, the equivalent of working towards a Ph.D. of wine. Years of struggle to pass multiple stages of exams and a dissertation - if one even makes it that far.

Then again, isn't it the journey, the promise and joy of discovery and learning, that started me down the path to wine studies in the first place? I knew already, deep within me, that no matter what happened, I would always find ways to expand my world through academic study and lived experience.

The Diploma or equivalent is the base prerequisite for qualification for application to the Master of Wine Study Program. The day after I took my Fortified Wines exam, I finally looked up the application information on the Institute of Masters of Wine site. My pulse raced as I saw that the deadline was only 1 month away, at the end of July. I had to decide very quickly if I wanted a year to consider it, or to go for it now.

I knew the answer in my heart at once.

So, while cramming for the French Wine Scholar Exam (see that story) I raced against time to apply for the Master of Wine Study Program. The application process was akin to applying for university or to graduate school, requiring a recommendation letter, essays, and multiple entrance exams covering theory and practical (tasting) knowledge.

After a very fraught and stressful month of work around the clock, my application was complete, the exams taken. I had only to wait. I knew that regardless of the outcome, I would be content that I had tried and done my best under the circumstances. If I wasn't deemed ready, at least I would know, and I could work towards better preparation.

Last month on a gray weekday, I woke up to the best email I could imagine starting my day off with: I'd been accepted as a student of the Institute of Masters of Wine!

I learned that the acceptance rate was less than 50%. I was deemed worthy of the challenge. 

When my Diploma study partners, who have become dear friends, learned of my acceptance and saw how incredulous I was, they laughed. "They'd be mad not to accept you!" I really appreciate their support and vote of confidence, because I certainly hadn't felt the same about myself.

For some time (days!) I was in a shell-shocked state, until the real terror of what I was getting into began to set in. But, those moments were sweet, indeed.


A few of the exam wines, after the fact

I now look forward to a new adventure, a very difficult one, that will challenge and frustrate me in ways I cannot imagine in this moment. Despite the trepidation, I feel an amazing sense of commitment. I confess unabashedly that I am thrilled and ready to work harder than I ever have. It is time for me to embark on the MW journey.