SOME PINS are worth more than others. After gaining a Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET) Level 1 Award in Wines, one would be given a blue pin. That doesn’t sound like much, but, as Bel S. Castro, Assistant Dean for College of Hospitality Management for Enderun Colleges, said “…in the UK, you cannot work without this,” pertaining to the thriving food and beverage sector in the United Kingdom.

BusinessWorld attended a review class for the WSET Level 1 Award in Wines, in preparation for the WSET Level 1 examinations which is made up of 30 multiple choice items. A minimum score of 21 is needed to pass the exams.

There were modules about growing grapes, types and styles of wine, grape varieties, food pairing tips, and other topics in the world of wine. BusinessWorld picked up a few tips and tricks. For example, tea and coffee do not grow where grapes grow, 30 and 50 degrees above and below the equator. To properly view a glass filled with wine, one does not hold it up against the light, but rather against a white surface. BusinessWorld’s classmates last week included students from Enderun (the WSET Level 1 is embedded in the school’s curriculum; they can advance to Level 2 as an elective), a banker, a flight attendant, and a bartender. Ms. Castro said that some companies, such as those in the food and spirits industry, send their employees over for the examination and the certification. As we’ve said above, the WSET Level 1 is usually needed for employment in the sector, but in the Philippines, it definitely gives one a competitive edge. “You come in, and you hit the ground running,” said Ms. Castro.

“If somebody’s looking for an F&B career, I think it triggers two things. One, is that you have a genuine interest, and any employer likes people who have genuine interest,” she said. “Between somebody who actually went out of their way to train and get certified versus someone who would just say ‘I’m passionate’ — I mean, somebody has proof, the other one just has promise.”

As for our classmate who worked in finance, Ms. Castro said that she gets a lot of wine enthusiasts and people in other sectors as well. “For some of them, they just want to be able to walk into a wine store, or open a wine list and not look stupid,” she said. “For business people, they do it because entertaining is part of their business.” She points out scenarios, for example, if a foreign delegation is sent over, and one has been tasked to look after them. In some restaurants, meanwhile, she points out that some wine lists can be books, and one might need a certain level of knowledge to navigate through them.

It’s a sizable investment: taking the Level 1 class and examination costs P16,500 through Enderun Extensions, an arm of Enderun that offers non-degree classes in a myriad of topics (Ms. Castro lists down calligraphy and robotics, among others). She estimates that P750,000 is needed to finish the Level 4 class in London. — Joseph L. Garcia