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South Africa is known for its award-winning wines, most of which are sourced from the Western Cape region. Follow the Cape Winelands and you will find wines that compete with the best around the world on an international level. A good way to learn about where these wines come from and where they are grown internationally is to do a Wine and Spirit Education Trust wine course.
These courses consist of varying lengths and qualifications but the Level 2 introduction to wine takes place over a single weekend and a certificate is awarded upon passing an hour-long exam. The course that I did took place at Groot Constantia, part of the Constantia Wine Valley that is known for its Sauvignon Blanc.
Photo Credit: Megon Venter
Groot Constantia is just one of the many wine farms where these courses are held. The estate hires out a space to the WSET for the purpose of wine education but the grounds can still be enjoyed during the small breaks. Other regions besides Constantia for these courses include Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhoek for an authentic winelands experience. You could also pair the course with an early dinner at one of the award-winning restaurants that are situated on many of these wine estates.
Before you even arrive, course books are sent to you via courier. There is a study manual that you are invited to make notes in and then another glossy book with all of the vital information printed inside it.
The course day begins with meeting your fellow classmates. You’re provided with a spittoon, a tasting mat, a branded bag and four tasting glasses. While it may make you nervous to think about spitting wine out, the tasting samples are not entire mouthfuls at a time and the process is actually necessary to determine certain aspects of the wine such as acidity. The best part is, the tasting glasses, bag and course material are all yours to keep!
Photo Credit: Simon Watson
The course itself (Level 2) covers how to properly taste wine and ascertain what elements make it up. You receive a tasting card in your course material pack which gives you hints on different flavours and composition categories to pick up in the wine.
An important note to make is that if any attendees are opposed to tasting the wines either for religious reasons or pregnancy, the exam can be taken and passed with distinction without ever having to taste. The tested material covers the process of wine-making, spirit-making as well as the regions where the different vine varieties grow around the world. The exam is multiple choice and you have two weeks beforehand to study and go over your lecture notes.
There aren’t many breaks but you are free to get up at any time. Guest lecturers make appearance but a main speaker walks you through things such as tasting notes and the pouring of wine. A presentation is projected that echoes what is printed in the course material and while the information is dense, it is laid out step-by-step.
Several wine estates on the Cape Wine Route send their employees to these courses so that they can better their skills in the hospitality industry. This means that many of the people you are doing the course with have very interesting insights to share but supporting the courses also supports the furthering of wine knowledge globally. If you value wine-making, it’s a wonderful way to give back the industry and become a part of it yourself.
Are you inspired to do one of these courses? Start out with Level 2 and work your way up the ladder of wine knowledge on an international level. This is also a great way for amateur connoisseurs to know more about South Africa’s wines especially if they are coming from countries that are giants in the industry such as France, Spain and Italy.
Featured Image: Simon Watson
This wannabe blogger comes all the way from a little town called Nelspruit in the province of Mpumalanga. After taking on The Mother City, she hopes to explore more of the world, all the while keeping her focus on sustainability and equality.
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