It’s official: I have no taste

Posted By Chris Kaplonski on May 25, 2016

Well, according to the WSET Unit 6 (fortified wines) exam results, anyway. My pride is somewhat assuaged by the fact that at least I passed the theory section. (One can insert here all the jokes about academics being useless in the real world.)


I’m still debating spending the money WSET charges to get the feedback on the tasting section. It might be interesting to see how close I was to what they thought the fortified wines should smell and taste like. But then again, it might just annoy me further, especially if I failed by only one or two points.

I could argue that this is more evidence for the normative approach to tasting that WSET takes, and that I’ve critiqued recently in conference talks, before I knew the results. But it would very much sound like sour grapes in this context.

I will retake the exam, even if it does mean having to retake both parts. Readers of this blog will know that I’ve become increasingly sceptical of WSET, and so may wonder why. I’ve asked myself that. Part of it is continuing fieldwork. We don’t always get to work with people or ideas we agree with. My last project was on political violence and genocide. I certainly didn’t agree with that. I did think, however, it was an important topic. Wine isn’t quite so important, but I think it raises quite intriguing questions about sustainability and the senses, and other ones about language. So it’s worth doing. Besides, I figure when I get my Diploma, that should give any critiques additional weight, as they’ll be coming from someone who has gone through the system.

Until then, I’ll just take perverse pleasure in officially having no taste.

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