Resources to pass WSET Diploma D1 (Previous Unit 2), Wine production

Before you start reading, take into account that I took my exam in August 2017 so some of the information about the D1 exam can be outdated.

As you know, I managed to pass my WSET Diploma Unit 2 exam with a pretty good result. Some of you asked me to share a few more tips and resources which helped me prepare for the exam. Here we go!

As mentioned in my previous post, there two books that are great companions to the course book – “Viticulture – An Introduction to Commercial Grape Growing for Wine Production” and “Understanding Wine Technology: The Science of Wine Explained”. Do you need both of them? Well, to be perfectly honest, you don’t need any of them, all you need to know is in the course book. However, if you are like me, who has never worked in a vineyard or in a winery, you may struggle to understand some of the concepts described in the course book.

Both of the books look at the viti and vini concepts from different angles, give various examples, and have more photos (the black-and-white photos from Stephen Skelton’s book do not have the best quality though). I used both books as a complement to the main materials provided by WSET. I remember that I read the “Viticulture…” book on our road trip on the East Coast of Australia, at the very beginning of my Diploma studies. And later, I got back to the parts of this book pretty frequently. I had a look at the “Understanding Wine Technology…” book after I researched the viticulture part of the unit. I did not want to mix the concepts in my head and overdo the studies. In this case, I was reading the book along with learning from the coursebook. And coming to the selected parts before the exam to gain better understanding.

With all the reading materials I used highlighters to mark the most important parts. I also tried to describe the concepts in my own words by writing them down or talking to my wife (she was not a fan though ?).

What about the WSET online classroom that was available? Yes, sure, I used it, however, I don’t think it was crucial for my studies. The most handy parts were the sample tests that I could re-take as many times as I wanted. I also used the Q&A section of the classroom quite a bit. Whenever I found a concept I did not fully understand or if something seemed confusing or if I did not understand an answer to a sample question, I would ask the online tutor for an explanation. It’s better to ask before the exam than be sorry and angry after the exam, I thought. Another advantage of the classroom was the pacing of the studies. I was trying to follow the structure and plan of the on-line activities. Week 1 – establishing a vineyard, week 2 – vine management, etc. The problem was that the online classroom finished at the beginning of June and my exam was at the end of August which meant that I had to keep revising for almost 2 months. But maybe it helped me pass the exam? I guess I’ll never know.

Remember how I told you that I had never worked in a vineyard or a winery? It does not mean that I don’t know any friendly winemakers. Well, I do and I used these relationships a couple of times when I had questions to ask – about rootstock, pruning or blending.

Walking through the vineyards in Marlborough
Some barrel tasting at the Fromm winery

The visit organised by our tutor (Jane Skilton MW – thanks Jane!) to the Kumeu River, where some of the best Chardonnay in the world are produced, was crucial for me. Michael talked to us about his practices in the vineyard, challenges with the wet Auckland weather, wild yeast, malolactic fermentation. He also showed us his presses, filtration equipment and walked us through his winemaking process. This was all fascinating and it gave me an amazing opportunity to marry my theoretical knowledge with more practical examples. And this was another chance for me to ask all the questions that accumulated in my mind.

Talking about the living soil and biodynamics at the Burn Cottage Vineyard, Central Otago.
Learning some practical skills at the Huia Winery, Marlborough

You should not panic if you cannot visit a winery, though. Youtube is your friend and you can find there almost everything these days. Often I would turn on a playlist of interesting videos or just jump between recommended videos while eating my dinner or doing house chores, this helped me save some time and made sure I kept refreshing my knowledge. Here are some of the videos and channels that I found extremely useful in my studies:

  • My Playlist of the most useful Viticulture videos is here.
  • My playlist of the most useful winemaking videos is here
  • Tom Zabadal’s playlist of viticulture videos – these are the most detailed videos on viticulture I could find. And many of them go beyond the syllabus of Diploma studies, nevertheless, they are fascinating, even though the quality of video and audio is not the best.

The best thing happened after all my studies, though, when I was able to actually help with a tiny bit of the winemaking process. Can’t wait for this Cabernet Sauvignon to be released ?

That’s me, trying to put theory of cap management into practice

What are some of your ways to learn about wine production? ?

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