Grim Weather, Warm Service

The taste of liquid inspiration! WSET Reaches 50 Years

The taste of liquid inspiration! WSET Reaches 50 Years


Celebrating 50 years of wine education

A short history of the Wine & Spirit Education Trust

A lot has happened since 1969.   It was, after all, the year in which man landed on the moon, Richard Nixon became the 37th US president and four scousers were photographed on a zebra crossing in North West London. In fact, as well as these landmark events, something else happened that changed the face of the UK’s hospitality trade forever - 1969 saw the foundation of the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET).

Since its inception, WSET has educated and supported many thousands of students seeking to further their education in wines, spirits and sake. Catering for both trade professionals and drinks enthusiasts from all walks of life, WSET has been at the forefront of the industry for half a century and boasts many of the world’s most respected names among its alumni. 

In the beginning WSET offered just three qualifications which were only open to trade professionals.  WSET’s first ever graduation ceremony was in 1970 when a mere 84 students from the UK received their diplomas - one of whom was the eminent wine critic and writer Michael Broadbent MW. 

Wine hi-res.jpg

As recognition of WSET qualifications grew, we realised there was a demand beyond the UK for quality education in wines and spirits. In 1977 WSET launched its first courses outside the UK in the Republic of Ireland. In the same year we launched WSET qualifications across the Atlantic; with the International Wine Education Guild (IWEG) in Ontario, Canada, becoming the first North American provider of WSET qualifications.

By the end of the 1990s WSET qualifications were available in the UK, Europe, USA, Middle East and Asia. In 2007 international students taking WSET exams outnumbered UK students for the first time and in 2016 we opened our first international office in Hong Kong to serve our growing Asia markets.

Today WSET qualifications are available in over 70 countries and in more than 15 languages, through a network of 700+ course providers.  Students outside the UK now represent over 75% of WSET candidates each year. Since 1969 WSET has awarded more than half a million individuals a WSET qualification.

At this year’s annual Awards & Graduation Ceremony at the City of London’s historic Guildhall – the first event in the WSET’s 50th anniversary year - 532 Diploma graduates celebrated their achievement on completing this flagship qualification.  There are currently over 9000 WSET Diploma graduates worldwide - all of whom are entitled to use the post-nominal DipWSET to signify their academic achievement.

Today WSET offers courses to anyone looking to increase their knowledge of wines, spirits or sake:

  • Wine: Levels 1, 2*, 3 & 4 Diploma* *currently including spirits

  • Spirits: Levels 1 & 2 (Level 3 coming soon!)

  • Sake: Levels 1 & 3

Qualification levels 1 to 3 (with the exception of the Level 3 Award in Spirits) are recognised by the UK Government (Ofqual) and all WSET qualifications have a strong reputation worldwide as the industry standard for knowledge.

As well as some of the most respected figures in the wine industry, including Tim Atkin MW, Jancis Robinson MW & Olly Smith, the spirits industry now includes its own set of well-respected professionals who are WSET qualified.  These include:

Hannah Lanfear - Director of the Mixing Class

Matt Dakers - London Cocktail Club and Creator of Jindea Gin

Mike Foster - Global Brand Ambassador Belevedere

Nate Booker - Brand Development Manager, Mangrove

Claire Houghton - Chase Distillery

The Hedonist - Leeds

After witnessing WSET’s consistent growth in London over many years, I am on a personal mission to bring WSET to my fellow Northerners and ensure that London doesn’t continue to go unchallenged in its domination!

I am active in Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool so, if you would like to hear more about how you can become a member of WSET’s prestigious alumni club, where you can study or how our courses can help advance your career - just get in touch. I’m here to help!  You can also find out more at

Robert Crouch

WSET UK Business Development Manager
North West & Yorkshire