by Elizabeth Downer, Pittsburgh-Post Gazette

Wine education is an essential element in appreciating fine wines. A good introduction are the hundreds of books catering to wine lovers who choose the self-help road to learning about growing grapes, making wine, tasting techniques, and wine and food pairing. But nothing beats a methodical class taught by a certified wine educator for correct and comprehensive information. Pittsburgh has a healthy assortment of local wine classes.

The leading provider of wine education around the world is the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) based in London. It was created in 1969 to take over the responsibilities of the Education Committee of the Wine and Spirit Association of Great Britain and Ireland and to provide stepping stones to the examination for Master of Wine, the ultimate professional wine credential.

In 1980, I traveled to London to sit for the diploma exam at the Trust’s offices. Today WSET offers classes in 60 countries and in 40 languages. In 2012, it taught 43,254 students world-wide, of which roughly 11,000 were in the United Kingdom. There, it is considered an obligation to train all staffers in wine and spirit stores. It’s virtually impossible to enter a shop there selling alcoholic beverages where any employee could not answer the most complex question regarding the products the shop sells.

Beginning this summer, Dreadnought Wines is bringing the WSET program to Pittsburgh. Michael Gonze and Debra Mortillaro, co-owners of the Strip District store, have offered wine and spirits classes and specialty events for more than 20 years. They have added to their team Rob McCaughey, who will direct their education division. A British citizen, he has spent 20 years in the hospitality industry in Europe, the Middle East and Hong Kong. He has credentials for teaching wine courses from both WSET and the Society of Wine Educators. The new courses are suitable not only for wine enthusiasts but also for hospitality and beverage professionals. We are fortunate to have this world-class program here.

The classes and costs:

WSET Level One Award in Wines — $199 — starts 6 to 8 p.m. Mon., June 3, and goes for four consecutive Mondays.

WSET Level One Award in Spirits — $250 — 5 to 8 p.m. Mon., July 1 and 8.

WSET Level Two Award in Wines & Spirits — $575 — 6 to 8 p.m. for seven consecutive Mondays starting Aug. 5.

WSET Level Two Award in Spirits (to be scheduled).

Other upcoming Dreadnought offerings include:

Port class — 3 to 5 p.m. Weds., May 8.

Single Malt Whisky Blind Tasting — 6 to 8 p.m. Fri., May 10.

Old World vs New World — 6 to 8 p.m. Tues., June 11.

Fizziology — 6 to 8 p.m. Fri., June 14.

To find out more, email [email protected] or call 412-391-1709.

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