Interview

After Some Admin Nightmare, I Upgraded my Skills and Took a UK WSET Certified Wine Course for Free!

Initially, I wrote a long preface about the admin nightmare of getting information from SkillsFuture and the service provider of the WSET course but nobody wants to read the shit. And I deleted 500 words. I want to talk about my positive experience with the wine course.

My friend who has a masters degree in wine recommended WSET when I asked her for a reputatable wine course. WSET gives certification if you pass the test and the certificate is recognised worldwide. I used my skillsfuture credit so the course is free! Yay!

On the day of the course, 11 April, the most reliable MRT line in Singapore broke down and the MRT station looked like the last 30 minutes of Saving Private Ryan. A woman next to me screamed, “The surge on Grab is $55?!” I almost never take train in the morning and my bad luck had affected people living in the northeast. I deeply apologise.

Yay! Breakfast was provided

After some trouble, I took a cab and the driver was a foulmouthed Vin Diesel in Fast and Furious. “KNN LJ Singaporeans don’t know how to drive.” We nearly got into accident a few times as he chased behind an ambulance van. I think his favorite song is Nikki Minaj’s “Va Va Voom.”

I arrived at 9.15am and the 9am course had already started. If you’re late for more than 30 minutes, you cannot take the class. It was a beginner’s class, level 1, but the course material and the students–most of them are wine aficionados like me or people in the service industry with lots of experience, sponsored by their hotels or restaurants–are not beginners. I’ve attended wine tastings before and I have some knowledge but I was intimidated by the course and my classmates.

Want to know what tannin is? Peel a grape. Eat the skin. Then eat the peeled grape. Then eat a normal grape. The skin is the tannin.

The course is divided into three sections. In the first, our excellent and super knowledgeable instructor taught about the characteristics of different wines. This section, I feel, is super interesting but way too short. How did the test expect us to answer questions like “what are the flavours of Shiraz” and “name a medium bodied wine”? (“black fruits, spice, herbaceous” and “White Zinfandel from New Zealand.”)

Then we had a practical, a wine tasting session at 11 a.m. Drinking at 11 in the morning! I’m a real housewife from any of the “Real Housewives” series. During this time, some mid-morning snacks were provided. I treated it as a buffet and kept eating. Not shy.

Moving into Section Two, they talked about how to take care of wine to serve it at optimal taste. A boring but essential topic.

Break for lunch. You have to pay on your own, no complimentary lunch. I took this opportunity to mug for the test later. But no one else was studying! I was the only one memorizing like crazy.

Last section is on pairing wine with food: For instance, sweet food is most problematic and exacerbates wines’ worst properties, so sweet food should go best with sweet wines like Riesling and moscato.

After listening to the instructor explain about the pairing, there was a practical round of wine tasting with food, which was fantastic and super fun. We ate smoked salmon (classified as “umami food” under the syllabus) and drank an oaked Chardonnay, and the salmon turned the wine undrinkable. But on the second tasting, adding salt and lemon juice to the salmon, the wine returned to its original citrus, creamy taste.

We also tried cake (“sweet food”) with Chianti Riserva, and the cake accentuated all the negative traits of the wine, making it more tannic and more acidic. Then we tried the cake with a German Riesling Spatlese,  which went really well together.

Funny thing: the couple in front of me treated the class like an open bar. Instead of swirling the wine in the mouth and spitting it out (because it’s gross to drink gargled wine), they just drank all the 9 glasses of wine and refilled their glasses. They also stacked up food on their plates like hungry refugees.

Then, 10 minutes later, we had our test. They were drunk while taking the test. They were trying to be discreet about their cheating… but since they were drunk, they couldn’t whisper, and had to slur audibly. HAHAHA.

tea break!

The guys behind me, who are from a certain 5-star hotel in Singapore, were cheating too. I don’t mind them cheating since this is a pass/fail course–everyone who scores 21/30 and better will pass–and I know I’ll pass as I studied during lunch. But if this is graded on a bell-curve, I would seriously be pissed off.

I’m not saying I condone cheating–people should never cheat and I didn’t–but there is a difference between taking the test as a hobby and as a career. It’s semi-ok to cheat for ordinary people like me who take the course out of interest but for people making a career out of it, isn’t it best to study and make a serious effort? Besides, they are representing their hotel; it’s not very nice to cheat and I know their hotel PR.

Anyway, not to distract from this post, I enjoyed my experience with this class immensely. It’s informative, educational, and fun. The teacher is super knowledgable and dedicated. I particularly appreciate how they meld theory and practice together.

But my suggestion is to teach quickly—there were some amicable but useless chatter during class–and leave 2 hours for students to study before the exam. Even when I took lunch time to study, I was left with two more pages that I didn’t memorise in time. But I received my test results: I scored 93%! Sad, how come not 100??? #humblebrag

In any case, I highly recommend this course. Does anyone know if the SkillsFuture credit is topped up yearly? I want to take Level 2 of the course.


Written by Dr. A. Nathanael Ho.

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