Before you start reading, take into account that handed over my research assignment in November 2018 so some of the information about this part of the WSET Diploma might be outdated. It is always best to check the newest WSET Diploma Specification.
D6 – Independent Research Assignment (previously Unit 1 – Coursework Assignment) was my favourite part of my Diploma journey. It was very aligned with my curiosity, analytical nature, and it took a lot of the guesswork away. The subject was given, the focus areas were provided. All I had to do was to sit in from of my laptop for a few hours, find interesting sources, and finish with creating a compelling story that would fulfil the requirements of the assignments. Don’t get me wrong, it was not effortless, but it certainly was easier than the other parts of the Diploma exams.
As part of the Independent Research Assignment you are asked to research a specified wine-related subject, and create a paper with around 3000 words. On August 1st two topics are announced and you can choose which one you want to research. One of the topics needs to be submitted by Jan 31st, and the second by end of July.
Here is the assignment I was researching:
The small size of the 2012 vintage in the Northern Hemisphere brought home to many the narrowing of the gap between supply and demand in the global wine market. Ever since then the wine industry has been watching the progress of each harvest with heightened concern. The big shortfall in the 2017 crop in many parts of the world saw the fear of a supply crunch realised. Industry participants and commentators are still working through the commercial implications of this acute drop in production.
And it came with the following additional questions:
The candidate should present a summary of the data that illustrates the gap between supply and
demand in the global wine market over the last ten years.
- The 2017 vintage
A vintage report should be written that explains why the 2017 harvest in parts of Europe and the New World was small in terms of volume. The report should focus on the issues that have influenced quantity rather than quality.
- The supply crunch
The candidate should describe the implications of the acute drop in global production in 2017.
- Personal commentary
The candidate should discuss how they see the global wine industry evolving in the light of the narrow
gap between supply and demand that now seems to be a permanent feature of the market.
Every question had assigned number of points so it was easy to assess how much effort had to go to each of the parts of the paper.
Initially, the topic seemed to be rather difficult. I never could remember vintage details. I also had only a rough idea of what constituted a good vintage. However, a quick search allowed me to learn that 2017 was a truly poor vintage. And the Internet was full of sources talking about the reasons for the substandard harvest all over the world – frost in April across Europe, draught in August, fires in California. This led to lower production, higher prices, bankruptcy and takeovers of some of the wineries, and search for diversification. In order to show the effect of the 2017 vintage, I used the data from OIV. They showed how little wine was produced, and which countries were affected the most. Moreover, Rabobank data were super useful to show the impact on the wine market. The stats created the background for the whole paper. Based on them I dived deeper into the main regions of bulk production, including Veneto, Sicily, Castilla-La Mancha, Bordeaux, Languedoc, California, Mendoza, and Riverina. As I was researching the topic, I was adding my finding to a mind map. You can find my mind map here – it’s a bit messy but that’s just how my brain works. It helped keep all the information in one place, see the connections between data, and keep track of the references and quotes I wanted to use. After I was done with my research, I combined all my findings and created the final paper. Seems easy, right? 😉
If you are interested in my paper you can find it HERE. I am happy to report that it’s a good example of a paper that was good enough for a Distinction grade.
And you are interested in another example of the Independent Research Assignment you can check out the one from July 2020.
Good luck with your research papers! 🤞🏻