WSET Level 4 Diploma Program Overview
The Level 4 Diploma in Wines & Spirits is the flagship certification of the WSET (Wine & Spirits Education Trust). The program will arm you with specialist-level skills and professional working knowledge of wines and spirits. By attaining the WSET Diploma, you will gain recognition within the wine and spirits industry as an expert with advanced product knowledge, proficiency in the evaluation of quality and style through the systematic tasting of wine and spirits, and highly developed skills in research and analysis – skills which are of significant use for higher-level trade professionals. The Diploma is considered to be a prerequisite for pursuing the Master of Wine (MW) through the Institute of Masters of Wine.
The Diploma is comprised of six units of study, each designed to develop expertise in a particular area. These six units have 6 separate online courses that you will complete before taking the unit exam. You will have a total of 6 exams. Please note that while you have the option to complete the Diploma through the online study program or through the in-person study program, all exams must be done in-person at our location in Napa, CA, regardless of your program type.
Unit 1 Global Business of Alcoholic Beverages
In this unit, you will develop and hone your research skills to study the global drinks markets and the marketing of alcoholic beverages. Unit 1 is a two-part unit; an online course followed by a written essay exam done in-person called the Case Study and a 3,000-word Coursework Assignment paper. The paper can be written anytime after the Unit 1 course is complete and submitted (by mail or in-person) in either April or November of each year.
Unit 2 Wine Production
In Unit 2 you will undertake a detailed theoretical study of viticulture, vinification, maturation, treatments, and packaging of wine. This unit is the first unit you will complete, as it builds a foundational level of theory knowledge needed for the study of Units 3, 5, & 6. This unit is assessed by a 100-question multiple-choice exam.
Unit 3 Light Wines of the World
In this unit, you will acquire specialist product knowledge and commercial understanding for the major light wine (all wines except sparkling and fortified) producing regions of the world. Unit 3 is assessed by a 5-question paper with short-form and long-answer essay questions and a practical tasting paper of 12 wines.
Unit 4 Spirits of the World
In Unit 4 you will study the production methods and acquire in-depth product knowledge and commercial understanding for the major spirit categories of the world such as Brandy, Whisky, Rum, Tequila & Mezcal, Vodka, flavored spirits, and fruit spirits. This unit is assessed by a combined tasting and theory exam consisting of a tasting paper of three spirits and one theory question.
Unit 5 Sparkling Wines of the World
In this unit, you will study the production methods and acquire in-depth product knowledge and commercial understanding for the major sparkling wines of France, Spain, Italy, Germany, and the New World. Unit 5 is assessed by a combined tasting and theory exam consisting of a tasting paper of three sparkling wines and one theory question.
Unit 6 Fortified Wines of the World
In Unit 6 you will study the production methods and acquire in-depth product knowledge and commercial understanding for the major fortified wines of Spain, Portugal, France, and the New World. This unit is assessed by a combined tasting and theory exam consisting of a tasting paper of three fortified wines and one theory question.
Please consult the Diploma Specification for more in-depth information on each unit.
Program Duration & Study Time
The WSET requires that you complete the Unit 2 course and take the Unit 2 exam before moving on to other units. There are specified times of the year that each unit can be offered and Units 1, 3, 4, 5, & 6 can be taken in any order. The Napa Valley Wine Academy has laid out a course schedule that will allow you to complete the program in 2 years – the WSET’s recommended amount of time it takes to successfully study and pass all units. When you enroll with us, you will be part of a cohort of other students enrolled for the same course schedule, and you will move through the program together.
The Diploma program is a long journey that requires dedication and perseverance. The most successful students are those who devote a minimum of 15 hours of study time each week. The Diploma exams cannot be passed by cramming at the last minute – it is a marathon, not a sprint. By following a strict study schedule, with daily time allotted to reading, note-taking, tasting, and review, you will be well-prepared to pass the exams.
Exams can be retaken (fees apply). The WSET allows 3 years total to complete all units, which gives students time to retake any failed exams. At the end of 3 years students need to reapply to the Diploma program.