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  • Writer's pictureAllison Sheardy

London (finally) called!

On April 11 I had the thrill of attending the 2022 WSET Graduation and Awards Ceremony in London. This was a bit of a journey, with the ceremonies originally scheduled for January of this year and then postponed due to COVID – but I finally made it!

As a refresher, here’s a bit about the WSET and my Diploma journey: the Wine and Spirits Education Trust is one of the oldest and most recognized wine certification programs in the world (established in 1969). There are four levels students can work their way through, culminating in the WSET Diploma in Wines. The Diploma consists of five units, many of which have both theory and tasting components, and a research paper. I took my final exam in May of 2021 and found out that I had passed, and therefore finished my Diploma, last August – it took me about three years to complete the Diploma; I started my WSET experience with Level 2 in 2017. Earning the WSET Diploma is a prerequisite for applying to the renowned Master of Wine program (applications open next month!).

The WSET is headquartered in London, and each year they hold a celebration to honor the previous year’s Diploma graduates. This year’s ceremony saw about 600 graduates from all over the world, although only about a third were able to attend in person (they also live streamed the event to make it more accessible to all). Each graduate had the opportunity to walk across the stage and be photographed with Paul Symington, the current Honorary President of the WSET. The event concluded with a lovely Afternoon Tea reception. Here I am outside the Guildhall just before the ceremony.

Following the Graduation Ceremony was an Awards Ceremony – this is a separate event to recognize students who achieved exceptional scores on their exams. Imagine my shock last November when I found out I would be one of these lucky recipients (and I was sworn to secrecy, so I am so pleased to finally be able to share with everyone)! I was awarded the Gerard Basset Memorial Prize and McNie Tasting Trophy for having earned the highest score of any American student on one of my tasting exams (the D3 tasting, a flight of 12 wines tasted blind and assessed). The award was presented to me on stage by Nina Basset; it was a very memorable moment.

After collecting my award on stage.

Of course, I wanted to make the most of my time in London (I was there for 11 days in total). Highlights included a visit to Gusbourne Wines in Kent, where I learned about the burgeoning English wine industry, Afternoon Tea at The Ritz complete with Champagne and a celebratory cake, a visit to Kensington Palace and another to Highclere Castle (the property where Downton Abbey was filmed), and stops at several historical sights and various wine bars. At Noble Rot Soho, I tried a Madeira from 1933 – now officially the oldest wine I have tried to date.

Overall, the trip was a big success – we had mostly sunny, warm days, and all of the London gardens are in bloom – it was picturesque. I am already planning my next visit!

Enjoying a glass and some snacks at the Coravin Wine and Bubbles bar, Gusbourne in Kent, 1933 Madeira, Highclere Castle.

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