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Welcome to WSET Level 2

 

Below you will find links to the various sections of this private student portal. 

Scroll down for information that will help you with all aspects of successfully completing this course.

 

Congratulations on embarking on the WSET Level 2 Award in Wines and Spirits. We hope that you will find it a rewarding experience.

The following pages contain many resources to help you in your pursuit of the WSET Level 2 Award in Wines. Just scroll down and you will get to the page you need.

Before getting started, it's really important for you to understand what WSET wants from you at the exam. The better you grasp this, the more likely you are to succeed.

WSET Level 2 is all about understanding what the wine label means. At the end of this program you will be able to pick up a bottle and understand what is inside. Do take some time and read the course Specifications. Everything is clearly outlined and it will focus your attention on the right areas. 

 
 

Weekly Topics and Homework

Below you will find the course schedule along with the study guide chapters and curriculum videos for each week. There are also additional videos and resources included that are not required viewing but may help with your studies. Don't forget to take advantage of all the maps!

 

Week 1: Tasting and Evaluating Wine, Wine with Food; Social Responsibility; Storage and Service

Required Reading:  
Chapters 1, 2, 5, 6
Course Specifications

Required Videos:

Other Materials*:
Student Portal:
Wine Tasting
Food and Wine

Week 2: Factors Affecting Wine Style, Quality and Price; Geographical Indications; Understanding the Label

Required Reading:
Chapters 3,-4
Course Specifications

Required Videos:

Other Materials*: 
Student Portal:
Behind the Label

Video:*
Discover the Art of Making Wine

Week 3: Chardonnay and Pinot Noir

Required Reading:
Chapters 7-8
Course Specifications

Required Videos:

Other Materials:
Video:*
Growing Great Pinot Noir in Burgundy
The Red Wines of Burgundy
The White Wines of Burgundy
 

Week 4: Syrah, Grenache, and Riesling

Required Reading:
Chapters 11-12
Course Specifications

Required Videos:

Other Materials
Video:*
The Wines of the Rhone Valley Parts 1-3

Week 5: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Sauvignon Blanc

Required Reading:
Chapters 9-10
Course Specifications

Required Videos:

Other Materials
Video:*
Wines of Bordeaux

Week 6: Other White Grape Varieties and Sweet Wines

Required Reading:
Chapters 13, 16
Course Specifications

Required Videos:

Other Materials:

Week 7: Other Black Grapes Varieties and Spirits

Required Reading:
Chapter 14, 18-20
Course Specifications

Required Videos:
Spirits Video

Other Materials

Week 8: Sparkling Wine and Fortified Wine

Required Reading: 
Chapters 15, 17
Course Specifications

Required Videos:

Other Materials
Video:*
Port

Week 9: EXAM

 

* Videos included under "Other Materials" are not part of the course curriculum and are included for your own personal interest

 

Behind the Label

 

Understanding what's written on the label takes you a long way to understanding what's inside the bottle. 

Geographical Indications (GI)

Geographical Indications tell you where the wine is from. 

Grapes can come from as large an area as France. These wines are not considered to have a geographic origin because it's just not specific enough to tell a story.

 

 

 

 

When we taste a wine from a region within a country, we can get a better sense of "place". Here is an example of a regional GI - Burgundy, or Bourgogne in French.

 

 

 

 

Within regions can be found smaller areas. They could be villages or a collection of villages. Below is an example of a village wine in Burgundy - Puligny Montrachet.

 

 

 

 

And we can drill down even further and get really specific as to where the grapes come from. The following label is of a wine that sources its grapes from a single vineyard - La Trufffière - in the specified village of Puligny Montrachet in the larger region of Burgundy.

 

 

As we get more precise with where the grapes are sourced, the wine represents more and more a sense of "place". A wine from "Burgundy" will taste like something from the Burgundy region, whereas a wine from the vineyard "La Truffière" will taste of the soil, sun, climate of that specific vineyard!

What's up with all the Acronyms?

There are currently 28 member states that make up the European Union and all of them produce wine to one extent or another.  The European Union has developed a system of overarching laws and regulations to ensure consistency across member countries. 

PDO (Protected Designation of Origin)

PDOs are generally small, defined geographical areas that have tightly refined regulations with regard to permitted varietals, grape growing and winemaking. In theory, these regulations result in unique wines that can't be replicated anywhere else. According to the EU, wine must meet the following standards to be classified as a PDO:

 
The name of a region, a specific place or, in exceptional cases, a country used to describe a wine that complies with the following requirements:
(i) its quality and characteristics are essentially or exclusively due to a particular geographical environment with its inherent natural and human factors;
(ii) the grapes from which it is produced come exclusively from this geographical area;
(iii) its production takes place in this geographical area;
(iv) it is obtained from vine varieties belonging to Vitis vinifera.
— http://ec.europa.eu/internal_market/iprenforcement/docs/observatory/gi-designations_en.pdf
 

Many member countries have their own set of regulations that work in parallel to the PDO system. Here are some important ones:

Traditional Terms for PDO Wines

France

Italy
 

Spain
 

Germany
 

AC or AOC - Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée

DOCG - Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita
DOC - Denominazione di Origine Controllata

DOCa - Denominación de Origen Calificada
DO - Denominación de Origen Calificada

Prädikatswein
Qualitätswein

PGI (Protected Geographical Indication)

PGIs are generally larger but still geographically defined areas that have fewer regulations than do PDOs with regard to permitted varietals, grape growing and winemaking. Some producers feel the PDO regulations are too restrictive - especially with respect to non-traditional varietals - and opt for the PGI category.

 
A region, a specific place or, in exceptional cases, a country, used to describe a wine that complies with the following requirements:
(i) it possesses a specific quality, reputation or other characteristics attributable to that geographical origin;
(ii) at least 85 % of the grapes used for its production come exclusively from this geographical area;
(iii) its production takes place in this geographical area;
(iv) it is obtained from vine varieties belonging to Vitis vinifera or a cross between the Vitis vinifera species and other species of the genus Vitis.
— http://ec.europa.eu/internal_market/iprenforcement/docs/observatory/gi-designations_en.pdf
 

Traditional Terms for PGI Wines

France

Italy

Spain

Germany

VdP (Vin de Pays)

IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica)

VdlT (Vino de la Tierra)

Landswein

Some producers have chosen to use the PGI labeling as opposed to their country labelling. In France , for example, there are now more than 150 IGPs (French version of PGI), covering locations mostly in the south of France - the biggest one being IGP Pays d'Oc.

Varietal Labelling or Named Region?

Have you ever looked at a bottle of wine and had no idea what grape was used to make it? Wines like Barolo, Meursault, and Rioja are a few examples of "named wines". Named wines are very common in the Old World. There are very strict wine laws which specify which grape variety can be planted in a particular region. Of course, they have had hundreds of years of wine making experience to figure this out! As you continue your studies, you will learn the grapes that are grown in these named regions.

If we don't know what grape is grown in Chablis, we wouldn't know that Chablis is made from 100% Chardonnay grapes.  

 

 

 

 


In the New World, labels focus on varietal as the wine laws are not as restrictive as those in the Old World. Labels are much easier for the consumer to decipher since they don't have to learn all the grapes of the named wines.

It's clear from this label that the wine is made from Chardonnay.

 


There are some European wines that are permitted to label their wines varietally. These are the PGI (IGP in French). The labelling regulations are less restrictive than those for PDO wines which don't permit varietal labelling. 

 

 

Single Varietal vs. Blends


A single varietal wine is just that - one grape. It could be Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, or Cabernet Sauvignon for example. As only one grape is used, only one grape is listed on the label.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes several different grapes are blended together to make a wine. In this case, each variety is listed on the label in descending order of percentage.

 
 

Other Labeling Terms

Vintage

The year the grapes are harvested

Alcohol

Percentage of alcohol in the wine expressed as alcohol by volume (abv).

Volume

Amount of the wine in the bottle. A standard bottle is 750 ml but there are other sized bottles as well.

Unoaked

Indicates that no oak was used in the production of the wine

Vieilles Vignes/ Old Vines

Indicates quality as older vines generally produce a better quality grape.

 

 

Wine Knowledge

 

At the conclusion of this program, you will be familiar with the main grape varietals, the styles of wine that they make, and the main regions where they are grown. You will be able to decipher wine labels and understand what's inside the bottle. You will also know the basics of grape growing and winemaking. Lastly, you will have know about the main types of spirits and their production.

Everyone has different study techniques. Below is a chart that is very useful as a study aide. You can have similar tables for all topics in that is covered in the program. This table is not complete. It is simply meant to illustrate the process.

Sample Multiple Choice Questions

1. Why are there very few vineyards lying closer to the equator than 30 degrees?

a. It is too windy
b. It is generally too hot
c. There is not enough sunlight
d. It is generally too cold

2. Which of the following varieties is often used in South Africa for inexpensive unoaked white wines?

a. Malbec
b. Chenin Blanc
c. Shiraz
d. Trebbiano

3. The word sur lie on a bottle of Muscadet indicates that...

a. It has been made without synthetic pesticides or herbicides
b. It has been aged in oak
c. It is a sweet wine
d. It has been bottled directly of the dead yeast

4. Which variety is often used for local rosé wines in Spain and Southern France?

a. Grenache
b. Chardonnay
c. Sangiovese
d. Zinfandel

5. Which of the following is true of column stills?

a. They only produce neutral high-strength spirits
b. They only produce relatively low-strength, harsh spirits
c. They may produce spirits with a range of strengths and styles
d. They are the oldest kind of still

Answers: 1-B, 2-B, 3-D, 4-A, 5-C

 
 

Wine Tasting

 

While there is no tasting portion on the final exam, it is important that you become comfortable with the WSET Level 2 Systematic Approach to Tasting (SAT). The SAT is designed to build individuals' skills progressively through the different qualification levels. At this level, you will be producing a basic tasting note. 

Template for tasting note

This template can be used for any wine. Notice how the tasting note follows the SAT exactly. The more often you write the full note, the easier it will become! 

Completed tasting note

Notice that every factor has been addressed. You can't get a mark if you don't write something down!

Based on this note, is this a wine you would like to drink?

 
 

Food and Wine Interactions

 

Pairing food and wine may seem mysterious, but understanding a few basic concepts will open the door to some fabulous pairings.

There are four primary components in food - sweet, salt, acid and umami. While there are bitter foods, this is much more rare. We can group these four components into two groups that have a similar affect on wine:

Sweet and Umami

Both of these components tend to make wines taste less delicious: more astringent/drying and bitter, less fruity and sweet.

Salt and Acid

Both of these components tend to make wines taste more delicious: less astringent/drying and bitter, more fruity and sweet. 

Click below to learn more about these interactions.

 
 

Curriculum Video

 

This video is required viewing as we spend little in-class time talking about spirits. It is important that you watch this video prior to the spirits lecture so that you are prepared with any questions you may have.

The password for this video is 64cpgfht3


Other Videos

Below you will find several videos on some of wine regions we have studied. They are not part of the curriculum but may give you a little more insight into the wines from these places. Sit back with a glass of your favourite wine end do some armchair travelling to wine country! 

 
 

Wine Maps

 

Look at almost any wine’s label, and you’ll find an indication of its origin, whether it’s as broad as an entire country or as specific as a particular vineyard. That’s because wines embody, and are shaped by, the places they come from—their distinctive combination of geography and climate.

Wine maps are a great tool for understanding wine regions. Each map comes in two versions: one in full detail and one as an outline. Study the detailed map and then see whether you can fill out the blank maps. You can even add the grape variety that is grown there, or any other information you feel is important to your learning.

Simply click on any image to print.

The Old World

France

Italy

Spain

Germany

 

South Africa

North America

South America

Australia

New Zealand

 

Mid-Session Quiz

 

You will be given access to this quiz at approximately halfway through the program.

 
 
 

Wine Books

 

General Reference and Technical

France

Italy

Spain

Portugal

North America

General Interest

Food and Wine


Wine Websites