Alumna Valerie Bollen receives DipWSET title

Alumna Valerie Bollen receives DipWSET title

05/16/2023 - 13:28

A post-nominal and certification brand well-known in the wine industry, and a complete mystery to most others...
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It started with a profound feeling
Valerie immediately experienced a natural inclination during her first wine tasting class. A deep desire to dive into the subject. Now, 12 years later, her passion for the art of wine tasting is stronger than ever. She is actually the second BUas graduate who has completed all WSET levels to date.

WSET Level 4 Diploma in Wines
The Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) is a London-based provider of wine qualifications that are recognized globally. They offer four levels of certification. The Diploma course (Level 4) normally takes up to three years to complete. It consists of six units: Wine Production, Wine Business, Wines of the World, Sparkling Wines, Fortified Wines, and an Independent Research Assignment.

What is DipWSET?

DipWSET stands for Diploma Graduate of the Wine & Spirit Education Trust. A post-nominal and certification brand well-known in the wine industry, and a complete mystery to most others. It signifies the ability to blind taste wines and evaluate them on an expert level. The bearer of the certificate also has extensive knowledge on the natural and human factors that influence the style, quality and price of wines.

Not for the faint-hearted

Valerie explains: "During the 2,5 years of training I attended a series of wine theory and tasting classes in Belgium and the Netherlands, all organized by WineWise. Supervised by Masters of Wine and surrounded by a small group of fellow wine professionals and enthusiasts, I knew I had come to the right place. The more active classroom sessions were followed by endless days of reading, long hours of tasting practice and piles of coloured flashcards and summaries. In the weeks leading up to the rigorous and nerve-racking examinations I would inform those close to me that I would not be available for a while and would in fact submerge completely. Inside my 'study cocoon' I spent the days filling out grids with grape variety characteristics, drawing wine region maps and pacing around the living room explaining the effects of malolactic fermentation to an invisible person.

Especially the 'Wines of the World' exams which I took in October 2021 were tough. This module is affectionately referred to as 'The Monster' or 'The Beast' by the in-crowd, due to the excessive amount of details to remember as well as the extreme time pressure during the examination itself."

I get a kick out of it
"As it is such a niche, it was difficult for the people around me to grasp what on earth I was getting myself into, why I was willing to sacrifice so much and put in all the time and effort. The truth is, I get a total kick out of it and I know for a fact my fellow connoisseurs do as well.

Wine tasting on this level is incredibly complex and the game of identification (name the grape variety, country and region of origin, vintage, and so on) adds a whole different dimension. Luckily it is impossible to get it right all the time, which keeps it interesting but at the same time very frustrating. The difficulty of it keeps us wine fanatics humble.  

When I was younger I used to think being nerdy was one of my bad traits, but pursuing this path has helped me to embrace it and now I would not trade it for the world. As much as I have enjoyed this course, I do not immediately advise others to enroll. I can assure you that one definitely needs to have a screw loose!"

The next right move
"Receiving the Diploma in March 2023 marked a special moment in my career. Looking back it dawns upon me how influential my Hotel Management studies have been. It has also been an honour to have my former wine teacher Rob van Ginneken supporting me throughout the years. Although my WSET 4 adventure has come to an end, I feel as if I have only just begun. The official WSET graduation event is due in the spring of 2024 in London, giving me plenty of time to contemplate the next right move for my own entrepreneurial endeavour 'Wine Sessions'."