WSET Level 2 with the Yorkshire Wine School

In 2017 I spent three Saturdays on the bounce holed up in a basement meeting room of a Leeds hotel.

Each week, fuelled by a morning sharpener from La Bottega Milanese, I‘d stagger in bleary-eyed from the night before and stagger out again seven hours later, booze-levels replenished and with a strong urge for a kebab and bed, ideally eating the former while laying in the latter.

I’d gone back to school, or, to be precise, Yorkshire Wine School – a really good kind of school – to undertake the WSET Level 2. If I passed, I’d have a certificate to wave in people’s faces and prove to all that the hard yards of drinking under the guise of study had been for a Good Reason.

This, to quote Martine McCutcheon, was My Moment.

Those three days, however, weren’t just a wine-fuelled jolly (although use of the spittoons did dwindle by about 11am on the first day), and nor, despite numerous samples, was this simply a “wine-tasting” course. The WSET Level 2 does require a fair bit of enjoyable graft.

Led by the ebullient Laura, who got the pace of each day bang on, we learnt how to give wine a proper going over through sight and smell before necking the stuff, and what all the pesky waffle on the label means.

We got to know our Barolos from our Barberas, our Chablis from our Chateauneuf, and about how the French really have a thing about soil. There was stuff about mountains and sea-breeze, oak barrels and steel tanks, and how a glass of champagne goes very nicely with fish and chips.

I’d soon perfected my “he knows what he’s on about” glass swirl, even if I didn’t actually know what I was on about, and for a while afterwards I ran the risk of fostering an expensive Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon habit.

The latter part of the third day was taken up by a multiple-choice exam, into which a few curve balls had been thrown just to check that we’d really been paying attention. Over post-exam beers there was much self-flagellation to be witnessed, mostly my own, as notes were consulted and mistakes too late to correct realised.

My certificate landed a couple of weeks later announcing a result of 78% – a Pass with Merit – for which I was relieved more than pleased. I lost the accompanying badge soon after; fate’s way, perhaps, of reminding me not to waltz into an exam with such bravado without having paid close enough attention to the grape varieties of the southern Rhone.

I mention all this for a couple of reasons.

If, like many, you’ve upped the wine intake over these last few weeks then getting to know more about what you’re pouring down your neck is surely a good thing to do, and Yorkshire Wine School a top-notch bunch to do it with.

Even in lockdown there are plenty of courses on offer, so go here for a gander.

(And, people of YWS, if you ever fancy putting on the Level 3 in the Haifax-Bradford vicinity, do let me know.)

Secondly, writing about restaurants – which is what I usually do on these pages – is a tad tricksy at the moment given that they’re all closed. As such, to prevent me from getting too rusty (yesterday I forgot how to spell ‘seven’), I might use this time and this space to blether on about anything nice (or not) that I’m drinking at home, and the WSET Level 2 seemed like a good place to start.

Cheers, etc.

Here I am on Twitter and Insta(gram).

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