We’re almost three months into 2020 and I haven’t managed to write a publishable blog post this year yet. After taking my Fortified Wine exam in January, I’ve been completely focused with my Unit 3 studies (aka “D3”, “The Beast” or “Basically all wines not covered in Sparkling or Fortified.”)
Each time I sat down and tried to write a post, I felt guilty for not studying for D3. So a few weeks ago, I thought “why don’t I start writing about my D3 studies?” My hope was that by documenting my experiences, this would help someone else pursuing the Diploma. I also believed that writing them down might very well help me too.
Since last Fall, I’ve methodically been preparing to take my D3 exam this May. I’d carefully put together my “roadmap” and was planning to follow it meticulously until exam day. What’s a roadmap, you might ask?
A Roadmap (Usually) Helps Prevent Shit from Going Sideways.
To help me stay on track, before beginning my studies for any wine course, I put together a roadmap: a detailed, realistic study plan from my starting point until exam day. I’ve done this for every single one of my Diploma exams so far and it’s helped immensely. My roadmap keeps me focused and, since I have a plan, I don’t need to worry about what I’m going to study each day or running out of time to cover everything. It’s all laid out in front of me – I just need to follow it.
It’s rather intimidating to put together a study plan for an exam that covers almost all wine regions in the world. But if I may draw on yet another law school analogy . . . D3 is quite similar to taking the bar exam. They’re both a culmination of years of learning – not just the weeks before the actual exam.
In law school, I took classes like Torts and Property in my first year and didn’t really revisit these areas until I was preparing for the bar exam two years later. But the material from these classes was still in my brain (and in my outlines!) so I just had to recall and review. Which, let’s be honest, is WAY easier than learning something for the first time.
When making your D3 roadmap – take into account that you already know a lot of the material: the Burgundy pyramid, German labeling laws, the AVAs of my beloved Washington State (ok, maybe you don’t know this last one – but I do!) 😉 Of course, you’ll need to refresh your memory on some of these concepts and dig deeper at this level – but the point is you aren’t starting from scratch.
So, I had prepared my roadmap which took me until mid-May when I was scheduled to take my exam. I was focused on my studies and on my way!
Even With a Detailed Roadmap, There Can Be Unexpected Detours.
Unfortunately, I had to deal with a not-so-slight detour. Two weeks ago, the school I’ve been taking Diploma with informed us that there weren’t enough students interested in taking the D3 exam in May so it wasn’t going to be offered until October.
Needless to say – that sent me scrambling a bit (ok, waaaay more than “a bit”). I started asking myself a lot of questions. Should I just wait and take the exam in October? This would give me several extra months to prepare . . . but it would also push off graduation until January 2022. Do I really need these extra months to study? Or, do I think I’ll be ready for the exam in May? And if so, where can I take it now that my current school isn’t offering the exam?
After spending a chunk of our vacation in Mexico on those questions (a regrettable waste of time), I decided to keep forging ahead for May. I enrolled with the Napa Valley Wine Academy and planned to head up there for my exams. My roadmap had taken a detour, but I’d handled it, and was back to moving forward.
And then, as I’m sure you also experienced, all hell broke loose.
And Sometimes, There are Roadblocks That You Simply Cannot Get Around.
Upon returning home from vacation, the world looked a bit different. And then it quickly started looking VERY different. Suddenly, things that mattered so very much to me a couple weeks ago – like my D3 exam – were no longer my priority.
It turns out that I won’t be taking the exam in May. Nobody will.
Almost the entire world is on hold because of COVID-19. We’ve had to readjust our daily lives to a (hopefully temporary) new normal. In one way or another, this virus is impacting every single one of us. The hospitality industry has been decimated as over 3 million people found themselves unemployed almost overnight (with, undoubtedly, more to come). There are long lines at grocery stores with shelves that are eerily bare. People are self-quarantining or their government is requiring them to do so. Most stores and services are completely shuttered. My 88 year old Dad is up in Washington State – the original epicenter of the virus in the United States – and while I can talk to him on the phone, I can’t hug him for months. And I’m trying not to think about the possibility of him getting sick . . .
I now have several “free” hours in my day that I didn’t have before. Although it seems like this would be a great opportunity for me to study – I can’t focus for shit. Thankfully, my school postponed the exam until October.
Knowing myself, I’ll get back to studying soon enough. I’ll probably tackle my Diploma research paper or pursue the Spanish Wine Scholar program. Or maybe both. 🙂 I need to keep my brain busy with something besides worrying. In any case, the detailed, well thought out, roadmap I’d relied on just a couple weeks ago is no longer relevant. The timeframe to my destination has changed – but I’ll get there eventually.
During this time we all need to readjust our roadmap – or make a new one. Either way, let’s help one another keep moving forward. I hope you and your family are safe and doing well – all things considered. I truly appreciate you taking the time to read my blog and interacting with me on social media – it helps keep some semblance of normalcy. And I know that together – we’ll get through this roadblock.
With much love…
7 thoughts on “WSET Diploma: Changing Up My Roadmap”
I did L3 online through NVWA and it was a good experience. I’m sure they will put a lot of study resources at your disposal. Good luck with the study program and thanks for the tips. Trying to find an APP for D3 – hopefully in Philly or DC – so that I can focus on an endpoint. Cheers!
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Thanks Lauren – I hope you can find an endpoint for this journey too! NVWA had scheduled some in-class D3 tasting review sessions with an MW that sounded incredibly helpful. Hoping that they reschedule these for later this year (fingers optimistically crossed!)
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I was planning to register for French Wine Scholar through distance study, but not knowing when my in-laws can see my 2.5 yo daughter again, I’m stumped for time.
I’ve given it a lot of thought and like you, studying provides me with some normalcy so I think I’ll go ahead do it. It will likely be on weekends only that I study but I do have a year from registration date to do the exam. I’ll have to do up a roadmap too, or as I call it a study schedule. Keep up the great work with the blog and I love your quizzes on instagram!
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Thanks Vanny! 🙂 Well, you know I think you should go for it. 😉 I’m happy to send you some outlines from my FWS studies if you think they’dl help. Hope you’re doing ok and staying safe and healthy!
That would be great! I would never refuse that from someone who’s excelling!
What a nice reminder, Friend! I’ve been taking deep breaths and letting go of timelines these days. Be well!
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I miss you!! Hope you’re well – and still playing as big as you can! xoxo!