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WELCOME TO WSET LEVEL 3

 

Congratulations on embarking on the WSET Level 3 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 3 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 3 is all about understanding the key factors influencing the style and quality of wine. There are five elements: climate, soil and topography, grape varieties, viticulture and 

winemaking. For each key wine in the syllabus, you should be able to say WHY wine A is qualitatively and stylistically different to wine B.

The first thing you should do is read through the course specifications. It breaks down the program for you, outlining what you need to know, and gives you an indication of relative importance. There is a lot to study and you want to be as efficient as possible. 

But most of all, have fun. Wine is a great topic to study - especially the practical sections!  

Scroll down and find sections on:

 

 
 

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: Introduction and Tasting Technique

Required Reading:  Chapters 1-3, Course Specifications

Required Videos:

Other Materials:

Week 2: The Natural Factors and Human Influences in the Vineyard

Required Reading: Chapters 4-6

Required Videos:

Other Materials: 
Video:
Discover the Art of Making Wine

Week 3: The Human Factors in the Winery that Influence Style, Quality and Price

Required Reading: Chapters 7-10

Required Videos:

Other Materials: 
Video:
Discover the Art of Making Wine

Week 4: White Wines of Germany, Alsace, Austria and the Tokaj Region of Hungary

Required Reading: Chapters 17, 22-24

Required Videos:
Fundamental Rules of Wine Labeling
French Wine Laws
Alsatian Appellations and Classifications
Germany Wine Laws
Austrian Wine Laws
Tokaji Sweet Wine Laws

Other Materials:
Videos:
Discover the Art of Making Wine
The Wines of Alsace (2 videos)

Maps:
Germany
Alsace
Austria

Week 5: White Wines of Burgundy, the Loire Valley and Bordeaux

Required Reading: Chapters 13, 15, 18

Required Videos:
French Wine Laws
Bordeaux Classifications
Hierarchy of Burgundy Appellations

Other Materials:
Video:
French Wine Laws
The Wines of Bordeaux
The Wines of Burgundy
The White Wines of Burgundy

Maps:
France
Bordeaux
Burgundy
Côte de Nuits
Côte de  Beaune

Week 6: Red and Rosé Wines of Bordeaux, Southwest France and the Loire Valley.

Required Reading: Chapter 13, 14, 18

Required Videos:
French Wine Laws

Other Materials:
Videos:
The Wines of Bordeaux
The Wines of Bordeaux's Right Bank

Maps:
Bordeaux
Southwest France

Week 7: Red Wines of Burgundy and Red and White Wines of the Northern Rhône Valley

Required Reading: Chapters 15, 19

Required Videos:
French Wine Laws
Hierarchy of Burgundy Appellations

Other Materials:
Videos:
The Wines of Burgundy
Growing Great Pinot Noir in Burgundy
The Red Wines of Burgundy
The Wines of Northern Rhône

Maps:
Burgundy
Côte de Nuits
Côte de  Beaune
Rhône Valley

Week 8: Red, White and Rosé Wines of the Southern Rhône, Southern France: Red Wines of Spain Part 1 and White Wines of Spain and Portugal

Required Reading: Chapters 20, 21, 30, 31

Required Videos:
French Wine Laws
Spanish Wine Laws

Other Materials:
Videos:
Wines of the Rhône Valley Parts 1-3
The Wines of Northwest Spain
The Wines of Rioja and Ribera del Duero

Maps:
Rhône Valley
Languedoc Roussillon
Provence
Spain
Rioja
Portugal
Portugal's Appellations

Week 9: Red Wines of Northern Spain Part 2 and Red and White Wines of Northern Italy

Required Reading: Chapters 27, 30

Required Videos:
Spanish Wine Laws
Italian Wine Laws

Other Materials:
Videos:
The Wines of Rioja and Ribera del Duero
The Wines of Northern Italy
The Wines of Barolo and Barbaresco
The Wines of Alto Adige

Maps:
Spain
Rioja
Italy
Piedmont
Northeast Italy

 

Week 10: Practice Tasting Exam and Red and White Wines of Central and Southern Italy, the Red Wines of Portugal, and the Red and White Wines of Greece

Required Reading: Chapters 25, 28, 29, 31

Required Videos:
Italian Wine Laws
Greek Wine Laws

Other Materials:
Videos:
The Wines of Central Italy
The Wines of Tuscany
The Wines of Southern Italy

Maps:
Central Italy
Tuscany
Southern Italy
Portugal
The Douro

Week 11: Premium Red Wine Regions of the New World: New Zealand, USA, and Australia

Required Reading: 32-34, 36-40

Required Videos:
USA and Canada Wine Laws
Chile, South Africa, and Australia Wine Laws

Other Materials:
Videos
The Wines of California
The Wines of Napa Valley
The Wines of Sonoma County
The Wines of the American Pacific Northwest
The Wines of Washington

Maps:
New Zealand
North America
California
Napa
Oregon
Washington
Australia
New South Wales
Western Australia
Victoria
South Australia

Week 12: Premium White Wine Regions of the New World: New Zealand, South Africa, USA, and Canada

Required Reading: Chapters 32-35, 38, 40, 

Required Videos:
USA and Canada Wine Laws
Chile, South Africa, and Australia Wine Laws

Other Materials:
Videos:
Wines of California
Wines of the American Pacific Northwest
Wines of Sonoma
Our Wine Country: Ontario

Maps:
New Zealand
South Africa
North America
California
Napa
Oregon
Ontario
British Columbia
Washington
South Africa

Week 13: Regional Specialities of Australia (Semillon), South Africa (Pinotage), Canada (Icewine), California (Zinfandel): Premium Red and White Wines of Chile and Argentina

Required Reading: Chapters 36-39

Required Videos:
USA and Canada Wine Laws
Chile, South Africa, and Australia Wine Laws

Other Materials:
Videos:
The Wines of California
Canadian Icewine
The Wines of Chile Parts 1-2

Maps:
Australia - New South Wales
South Africa
Ontario
California
Chile
Argentina

Week 14: Sparkling Wines

Required Reading: Chapter 42

Required Videos:
French Wine Laws

Other Materials:
Videos:
The Wines of Champagne
How Champagne is Made
Sparkling Wine Making
Champagne and Sparkling Wine Service

Maps:
Champagne
 

Week 15: Fortified Wines

Required Reading: Chapters 43-45

Required Videos:

Other Materials:
Videos:
The Wines of Sherry
Port

Maps:
Spain
Jerez
Portugal
Douro

 
 

Wine Knowledge

Regions

There are five elements that you need to learn about for each region: climate, soil/topography, grape varieties, viticulture and winemaking. As well, for each key wine in the syllabus, you should be able to say why wine A is qualitatively and stylistically different to wine B.  When you study for the WSET Level 3 and especially for the open questions, you need to be able to understand and form all these connections for each of the key wines in the syllabus. This will also help you when tasting a wine blind and having to reverse your thinking.

To help your with your studies, I would suggest using the following structure for each of the key regions in the syllabus. This way you know you have information on all the key variables.

Viti/Vini

As with regions, putting together something 

Sample multiple choice questions

1. Which one of the following statements is true?

a. The timing of the harvest is unaffected by rainfall
b. Only manual harvesting is suitable for premium quality wines
c. Grapes harvested by machine do not need to be destemmed
d. Mechanical harvesters are ideally suited to working on steep slopes

2. Wines made from Baga typically have the following characteristics.

a. pale colour, low tannin
b. pale colour, high tannin
c. deep colour, low tannin
d. deep colour, high tannin

3. Which of the following is a category in South Africa's Wine of Origin scheme.

a. Zone
b. Sub-region
c. Ward
d. AVA

4. Salt in food can make a wine seem

a. more bitter and less acidic
b. less bitter and less acidic
c. more bitter and more acidic
d. less bitter and more acidic

5. What is the minimum period of maturation in oak required for a Spanish red to be labelled         Reserva?

a. 6 months
b. 12 months
c. 18 months
d. 36 months

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

Sample short answer questions

Part 1

a. Chardonnay can grow in both cool and warm climates. Give an example of one cool climate region and one warm climate region in Australia where Chardonnay is grown and describe what impact the climate has on the fruit characteristics of the grapes

An excellent answer would look like this:

b. Vertical shoot positioning (VSP) is a trellising system often used  when growing Chardonnay in a cool climate. Explain why a grape grower would choose to use this system.

An excellent answer would look like this:

A less successful answer would look like this:

Part 2

Some Chardonnays can have pronounced aromas of hazelnut, butter, sweet spice, toast and vanilla with a rich texture and a full body.

a. Identify and describe two techniques that could be used during winemaking and maturation to achieve these characteristics. Explain what characteristic(s) each technique contributes to this style of wine.

An excellent answer would look like this:

A less successful answer would look like this:

b. A customer asks you to recommend a premium French Chardonnay that has these characteristics. What wine would you recommend and what temperature would you serve it at?

An excellent answer would look like this:

A less successful answer would look like this:

c. The wine above has been opened but not all of it was consumed. You want to preserve the remainder for a greater period of time than a few days. Name one appropriate method for preserving the wine and briefly explain how it works.

An excellent answer would look like this:

A less successful answer would look like this:

 

Wine Tasting

The final exam includes a blind tasting of two wines - one red and one white. While you may think it crazy to memorize a set of wine terms, you still need to do it. Tasting notes are all about letting someone else know what the wine tastes like, so "smells like my grandmother's basement" isn't appropriate. Does your grandmother's basement smell musty or does it smell of fresh laundry?  While what you are smelling may remind you of your grandmother's basement, it is just too personal a term to use. 

As a result, it is very important that you learn the Systematic Approach to Tasting (SAT) inside and out. 

Here are some tips to help you:

Below are some great tips that will help you learn the SAT and write great tasting notes! 
Practice! Practice! Practice!

Use acronyms!

  • Appearance: Clarity - Intensity - Colour - Other
  • Nose: Condition - Intensity - Aroma Characteristics - Development
  • Palate: Sweetness - Acidity - Tannin - Alcohol - Body - Intensity - Flavour Characteristics - Other - Finish
  • Conclusion: Quality - Readiness to Drink - Identity - Price

There are four categories for everything but palate. There are nine categories for palate.

If you remember all this, then the SAT will become second nature.

Practice writing your wine paragraph 

WSET doesn't care if you use the same format for ever wine or whether you are wildly creative in your writing style as long as you get the points down. Here is a sample template for a tasting note:

*Red wines receive one additional mark for describing tannins.

When you get to the exam, write it all down before even touching your wine. Then you will feel like you are in full control and you will have a guide so that you don't miss any points.

Tasting note that receives full marks

This is a note for a good quality youthful red wine with low tannins and no oak influence. This wile shows only primary aromas and all available marks are given for valid primary descriptors only. Notice how every section is filled in. You can't get a point if you leave something out! 

Tasting note that doesn't receive fill marks

This note is for an outstanding quality white wine that is showing development (tertiary aromas/flavours) with clear oak influence (secondary aromas and flavours). For the nose, one mark is given for a valid primary, secondary and tertiary aroma with two marks allocated to any other valid descriptors. For the palate, there are only three marks allocated, one for each of valid primary, secondary and tertiary flavours. Can you figure out what's missing in this note?

One thing we can't stress enough is to be logical in your conclusions! A wine that has a low acidity, no tannins and little intensity of flavours CANNOT be a wine with aging potential. Similarly, a wine without balance and with a short finish can not be described as Outstanding.

Determining Wine Quality

In WSET Level 3 you will not asked to provide justification for your answer concerning the quality level of the wine, but how exactly do you determine quality. There are four factors that together are known as BLIC.

  • Balance
  • Length
  • Intensity
  • Complexity

If the wine scores highly on all of these components, you can be comfortable with an answer of very good to outstanding. This is an objective exercise. Notice that determining quality doesn't take into effect one's personal preferences. If you are not a fan of big jammy wines, but the wine still scores highly on all of these factors, it is a very good to outstanding wine despite your  not liking it.

 

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 and bitter, less fruity, and less sweet.

Salt and Acid

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

Click below to learn more about these interactions.

 

Curriculum Video

These videos are an important component of WSET Level 3. We will not be going in depth into these topics during the sessions. These videos will provide you with the necessary information for Wine Labelling and Wine Laws in different regions.

The password for these videos is pn8hhvm8d6

Other Videos etc.

 

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

Portugal

Germany

Austria

 

South Africa

North America

South America

Australia

New Zealand

China

 

Mid-Session Quiz

 

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

 
 
 

Wine Books

 

General Reference

France

Italy

Spain

Portugal

North America

General Interest

Food and Wine

Wine Websites