Our story

Our foundation

WSET was founded as charitable trust in 1969 to serve the growing educational needs of the UK wine and spirits industry which, at the time, primarily spanned import, distribution and retail. Funding was provided by The Vintners' Company and WSET took over the education initiatives started by the Wine and Spirit Association of Great Britain.

Our founders represented the cornerstones of the UK wine and spirits trade, and representatives from each of these organisations continue to serve on our Board of Trustees.

In 1969 WSET provided three qualifications for individuals working in the trade all delivered from our base in London:

  • Certificate in Wines, Spirits and Other Alcoholic Beverages
  • Higher Certificate in Wines and Spirits
  • Diploma in Wines and Spirits

Going Global

As recognition grew for WSET qualifications we realised there was a demand beyond the UK for quality education in wines and spirits. In 1977 WSET expanded access to qualifications abroad, by launching courses in the Republic of Ireland. And in the same year we launched WSET qualifications across the Atlantic, with the International Wine Education Guild (IWEG) in Ontario, Canada, becoming the first North American provider of WSET qualifications.

By the end of the 1990’s WSET qualifications were available in the UK, Europe, the USA, the Middle East and Asia. In 2007 international students taking WSET exams outnumbered UK students for the first time.

Today WSET qualifications are available in over 70 countries in 19 languages, through a network of 600+ course providers, and students outside the UK represent over 75% of WSET candidates each year.

Ensuring quality

Throughout our history our foremost priority has been to provide best-in-class education and qualifications to inspire and empower the individuals who take our courses. To that end our qualification suite has evolved over time to reflect the changing needs of the industry.

From just three qualifications in 1969 our suite of qualifications has grown to nine with dedicated programmes now available in spirits and sake.

In 2001 we became an accredited Awarding Body with the first of our qualifications becoming recognised by the UK government.

Our qualifications continue to be updated on a three year cycle to ensure their relevance to students and industry.

Key dates in our history

1969

WSET is founded offering three core qualifications for the trade:

  • Certificate in Wines, Spirits and Other Alcoholic Beverages
  • Higher Certificate in Wines and Spirits
  • Diploma in Wines and Spirits

1977

  • WSET launches courses in the Republic of Ireland and Canada

1991

  • WSET launches courses in France.
  • WSET remit is changed and courses are opened to students who do not work in the wine and spirits trade.

1993

  • The first German language WSET Diploma course is held in Austria.

1994

  • WSET launches courses in the USA

1997

  • WSET launches courses in Japan

1999

  • WSET holds the first WSET Diploma course in Australia.

2001

  • WSET is accredited as an Awarding Body with the first of our qualifications becoming recognised by the UK government.
  • Our three qualifications are renamed, in-line with the UK National Qualifications Framework guidelines.
    • Certificate in Wines, Spirits and Other Alcoholic Beverages becomes WSET Intermediate Certificate in Wines, Spirits and Other Alcoholic Beverages
    • Higher Certificate in Wines and Spirits becomes WSET Advanced Certificate in Wines and Spirits
    • Diploma in Wines and Spirits becomes WSET Diploma in Wines and Spirits

2002

  • WSET Chief Executive Andrew Paviour retires
  • Ian Harris, Marketing Director at Seagram UK, joins the trust as the new chief executive

2003

  • The redeveloped and improved Diploma is launched
  • The WSET Level 1 Foundation Certificate in Wines is launched (now the WSET Level 1 Award in Wines)
  • The WSET Level 2 Professional Certificate in Spirits is launched (now the WSET Level 2 Award in Spirits)

2004

  • WSET’s Global Campus goes live
  • The Institute of Wines and Spirits (now the WSET Alumni) is launched

2005

  • WSET relocates its headquarters to Bermondsey Street, London Bridge, UK.

2007

  • International candidate numbers exceed UK candidate numbers for the first time.

2008

  • Michael Broadbent MW, wine critic, writer and auctioneer, becomes WSET’s first honorary president
  • The first Awards and Graduation ceremony is held at Guildhall in London
  • The Educator Training Programme is launched

2009

  • Annual candidate numbers exceed 25,000 for the first time
  • The WSET Level 1 Foundation Certificate in Spirits is launched (now the WSET Level 1 Award in Spirits)

2010

  • Hugh Johnson OBE, best-selling wine writer, is appointed honorary president, replacing Michael Broadbent MW

2011

  • Qualification names are updated to bring them in-line with the UK academic levels.

2012

  • Jancis Robinson OBE, MW, renowned wine writer and commentator, is appointed honorary president, replacing Hugh Johnson OBE

2013

  • Countries where WSET courses are available exceed 60 for the first time

2014

  • WSET celebrates its 45th anniversary
  • Gerard Basset OBE MS MW MBA, is appointed as WSET’s honorary president, replacing Jancis Robinson MW
  • Annual candidate numbers exceed 50,000 for the first time
  • WSET pilots a new qualification: the WSET Level 3 Award in Sake

2015

  • WSET wins Queen’s Award for Enterprise in International Trade

2016

  • WSET opens offices in Hong Kong
  • WSET launches the Level 1 Award in Sake
  • WSET significantly revamps the Level 1 Award in Spirits and the Level 3 Award in Wines.