We asked WSET students about their decision to take our courses and their experiences of studying with WSET. In this Q&A we meet Desiree Harrison-Brown, who completed her Level 3 Award in Wines in Washington DC, USA.
How did you find out about WSET?
In 2017 I had a part-time job hosting wine tastings at local grocery stores and wine shops. I realised that I needed to learn more about wine to help educate consumers at the tastings. I searched for wine classes in my area and saw that Capital Wine School in DC offered WSET courses.
Which qualification did you take and what made you sign-up for the course?
I started by taking WSET’s Level 1 Award in Wines, so I could confidently answer questions at tasting events. After passing the class, I knew I wanted to continue. I recently passed the Level 3 Award in Wines with merit. I plan to start the Level 4 Diploma in Wines this year! As a wine ambassador for Pernod Ricard Winemakers, I need to continue to develop my knowledge and deepen my understanding of wine.
Would you recommend a WSET course to friends, family, or co-workers?
I always recommend WSET for anyone interested in working in the wine industry, and even those who just want to learn more to be a more informed consumer. I love the classroom setting, structured learning, and the ability to connect with fellow students.
What did you find most challenging about the course?
Geography has never been my forte but learning about wine pushed me to learn more about the world. The most challenging part of the course is memorising all the detailed information about the wine regions and appellations. Filling in blank maps and using the margins to take notes about the regions helped me to commit the knowledge to memory.
What do you find most exciting or interesting about taking WSET courses?
The most exciting part is tasting so many wines that I haven’t tried before or wouldn’t otherwise purchase. I fell in love with Port and New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc after tasting it in class. Another part of the course that I love is networking with my classmates, forming a tasting group, and fostering genuine friendships with other wine lovers.
Protip: Sauvignon Blanc contains an aromatic compound which accounts for its distinctive green bell pepper flavour. When Sauvignon Blanc grapes are exposed to sunlight, this compound decreases dramatically. Sauvignon Blanc grapes grown in the shade have nearly double the amount compared to those grown in the sunlight. To introduce complexity to their wine, winemakers can mix grapes grown in shade (for ‘green’ flavours) with those grown in sunlight (for tropical flavours).
How do you use your WSET qualification today? Do you think that taking a WSET course has helped you professionally?
The WSET Level 3 Award in Wines added credibility to my resume and allowed me to stand out among other candidates when applying for jobs. Currently, as a wine ambassador, my job is to educate consumers about wines in our portfolio. WSET courses help me to have a deeper understanding of where and how wine is made and how that impacts the style and taste of the wine. I frequently reference my WSET course materials whenever I need a refresher on a particular wine or region.
How has taking a WSET course impacted your confidence around wine?
After passing my WSET Level 2 Award in Wines, I got the confidence to transition from my corporate job into wine full-time. At the time, I didn’t realise that I had only scratched the surface in terms of wine knowledge, but I had a solid foundation that allowed me to taste wine using WSET's Systematic Approach to Tasting®, to have intellectual conversations, and to have an appreciation for many different styles of wine.
If you had one wine, you had to drink for the rest of your life what would it be?
I would drink Champagne (or anything sparkling)! Whenever I open a bottle, it’s an opportunity to celebrate even the smallest of wins. Sparkling is also versatile and pairs with a lot of food, from caviar to French fries!
If you’re interested in building your wine knowledge, find out more about WSET’s wine qualifications. With four progressive levels of study, you’re bound to find the one that’s right for you.