Mailbag Monday: Online Wine Courses?

Hi Alleigh,
I’ve been looking to get some advice on investing in a more formal wine education, and recently came across your blog. I love how easy it is to sort your posts – makes a great resource!

I’m an almost 27-year old Air Force wife and my husband and I have talked about investing in a wine education for me for some time now, but we haven’t been sure where to begin. I discovered my love of wine while living in New York City in my early 20’s. During the four years I lived there, I went to periodic tastings and frequently sought out restaurants with notable wine lists. Now that I’m no longer in the city, it’s much more difficult to continue growing my self-taught wine knowledge, and to find new wines that stand out. I’m thinking that a formal program could help fuel my wine curiosity wherever I happen to be, and might also be useful down the road.

We currently live in Pensacola, FL and will be moving every few years. Do you know if it’s possible to pursue a wine education with online courses? Are there any programs you know of that would be a good fit for someone in my situation?

Any other advice you have would be much appreciated!

Thanks!

Hi…and thanks for the compliment!  I’m glad that you’ve found A Glass After Work helpful!

Your question about online wine courses is a very good one.  Admittedly, I don’t have any personal experience with online wine classes, but I can share a little of what I have heard from others.

To start with, the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), which is based in London, does offer online courses directly.  I took the WSET Level 2 and Level 3 courses in person at the Washington Wine Academy in DC.  About half the people in my Level 2 class were wine enthusiasts looking to get a better understanding of wine, while the other half were professionals working in the wine industry.  I entered the class with no real wine knowledge except for knowing that I liked drinking it.  While I was taking my WSET Level 3, my instructor was actually in the process of doing his WSET Diploma online.  There were no WSET Diploma courses being offered in the area at the time, so this was essentially the only option for him.  Everything he said about it sounded like it worked out very well, and he passed earned his Diploma soon after we finished the course, so he was clearly successful.  Additionally, this past January, Hubby and I spent a week at Ti Kaye in St. Lucia, and, of course, I became friendly with Cleus, the Sommelier at the resort (they have an underground wine cellar with one of the largest wine collections in the Caribbean and were in the process of applying for Wine Spectator designation while we were there). At the time, Cleus had just passed his WSET Level 3, and he took the online course through WSET to prepare.  In fact, he’d also taken the WSET Level 2 online course, and he felt that the distance learning worked so well that he would begin the WSET Diploma Online sometime within the next year.

The only problem with going directly through WSET is that you have to go to London to sit for the certification exam.  There are places in the U.S. that offer WSET courses online, like the Napa Valley Wine Academy, the Vermont Wine School, or the Atlanta Wine School.  Unfortunately, though, they still require that you sit for the exam in person.

Since it doesn’t sound like you’re looking for courses to help with a career change, but rather are furthering your personal interest in wine, it may be worth seeing if one of the U.S. wine schools offering the WSET Level 2 online will let you take the course without taking the exam (unless, of course, you’re willing to make the trip to the take the exam).  I loved my WSET, and I think it would have been very valuable even without the exam as it really helped me understand wine, how to taste it, what I liked, and why I liked it.

Outside of the WSET courses, I’ve often looked at the Wine Spectator online courses, but I haven’t taken one.  The materials look like they are very detailed, even down to how to go into the wine store and buy the wines necessary to do the tasting portion of the course.  Obviously, as is the case with any online course, you’ll only get out of it as much as you put into it, but it’s at least worth looking into, particularly since you don’t have to travel anywhere for the final exam.

Unfortunately, as it doesn’t look like there are too many options on LocalWineEvents.com for Pensacola, those are the only two options that I really know of.  That isn’t to say there aren’t others out there, but online wine education is still fairly limited.

I hope this was at least a little helpful.  Good luck!

Question of the Day: Have you taken or do you have any recommendations for an online wine class?  I’d love to hear your feedback and experiences!

Cheers–
Alleigh

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