By Jess Hedrick

You’re a wine drinker who knows what you like. And you’re curious—you want to branch out, try new wines, but aren’t sure where to start. What if I told you that delving into the multifaceted world of wine can actually make it more satisfying? When you begin to understand the amount of time and effort that is involved in the creation of this beloved beverage it brings a whole different level of appreciation for it.

Here are five topics covered in WSET Level 1 that will make wine more enjoyable.

  1. WHAT EXACTLY IS WINE? On the surface, you inherently know what wine is—fermented grape juice. But this WSET course dives under the surface, covering where a wine comes from, how it is made, and what makes it so special. Get ready to travel from the vineyard to the cellar to your glass.
  2. HOW TO TASTE. You may have wondered why some wines make your mouth dry while others are smooth and easy to drink. Here, you’ll learn WSET’s Systematic Approach to Tasting Wine, which will answer some of those questions. This easy-to-follow format takes you step-by-step through the tasting process. You will learn where the smells and flavors in your glass come from and how to dissect the structure of a wine. Immediately after class, you’ll be swirling with more confidence (and excitement!) as you teach your friends the “pro” way to taste wine.
  3. CLASSIC GRAPE VARIETIES. There are thousands of different grape varieties, but WSET works in a progressive style so that you don’t have to learn all of them at once. Instead, you’ll start with the classic grapes, like Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, dive into the classic regions where they are grown, general characteristics, and how climate and weather might impact style.
  4. PAIRING WINE WITH FOOD. Forget all of those wine and food pairing “rules” you may have learned back in the day. Like white wine is for chicken and red wine is for beef. WSET Level 1 shows us that we can enjoy what we like because personal preferences do matter. What a relief! It also simplifies this topic and breaks down which foods work well with certain wines, and which do not—based on science! Plus, you get to practice in class by tasting different foods and wine together. You’ll gain an understanding of why acid in wine and salt and food makes for a great pairing, and also why sugary sweet foods actually make for a tricky pairing. You’ll be hosting your own dinner party with wine pairings in no time!
  5. WINE STYLES. WSET will touch on the various styles of wine, from dry to sweet, sparkling and fortified, what makes them different and why. You will walk out of this class, truly impressed with the many diverse forms wine can take, and eager to learn more.