Frequently Asked Questions
Log In details for Wine Spectator School students
Wine Spectator School is now a member benefit at WineSpectator.com. To access your course, you will need to log in to WineSpectator.com and then click on the Learn Wine tab in the navigation bar. Here's how to figure out your login: If you were enrolled in a course but were not a member of WineSpectator.com on July 4, 2010, use your email and your school password. Your course access has been converted into a WineSpectator.com membership through February 1, 2011. If you were already a member of WineSpectator.com before July 4, 2010 and enrolled in a course, use your email and member password (not your school password). If you joined WineSpectator.com after July 4, 2010,
use your email and member password. Got questions? Contact us
If you have any questions about Wine Spectator School that are not answered here, please let us know
Where do I start? What level course should I take?
If you haven't taken a wine course before, you should start with the ABCs of Wine Tasting, which is the jump-start short course, or with Understanding Wine, which is the full survey course that covers the world's main regions. Although these are our intro-level courses, they are not "lite." Describing the ABC course, a longtime collector said, "I took it because the price was right and I wanted to see what it was like. It reminded me of a few things I'd forgotten and taught me a few things I didn't know. Then I did the tastings with friends who didn't know as much about wine as I did, and we all had a great time."
As for Understanding Wine, it contains much of the information you'd find in an Advanced–level course elsewhere. Numerous wineries and national distributors have had their entire team, from sales to marketing to customer service to winemaking, take Understanding Wine so everyone would have a standard level of wine knowledge and so everyone would be speaking the same language. (Yes, there is a lot of terminology to learn! It's not unlike studying a foreign language.) You don't need to take both the ABCs and Understanding Wine (unless you want to) because much of the information contained in the ABCs is included in Understanding Wine.
The intermediate–advanced courses are in the Continue Learning section of our Catalog for Winelovers. These courses all assume that you've completed the ABCs or Understanding Wine or have taken an intermediate course at another school. If you've read a couple wine books but haven't taken a formal wine appreciation course with standardized tastings, start with the ABCs or Understanding Wine.
When do the courses begin? Is there a course schedule?
One of the benefits of taking a course online is flexible scheduling. That means your course is ready to begin whenever you are. And you can access your course at any time of day or night, wherever you are as long as your WineSpectator.com membership is current and you have internet access.
How are the courses set up?
Each course is composed of one to ten on-line classes. Most classes include an Introduction, Class Modules
and tutored Tasting
as well as a Review
. Most classes, along with their Worksheets
, can be completed in 60-90 minutes. Classes should be completed sequentially; complete the quiz for the current class before continuing to the following class. A Quiz concludes each class and a Final Exam
evaluates knowledge gained throughout each course.
Each class is divided into Class Modules that cover key concepts using text, pictures, maps, quotes from winemakers and videos. For students who cannot access videos, transcripts are provided for many videos. Since the materials build on previous lessons, a sequential progression is suggested.
Review and Resources
At the end of each class, a Review recaps main concepts in preparation for the Quiz. You'll also find resources that can help you learn more about specific topics. Resources include Additional Videos, Additional Tasting Suggestions and links to reserve reading from Wine Spectator Online.
Class Worksheets and Study Guides
Most classes include Worksheets and Study Guides to reinforce key information. Packets containing these materials can be downloaded from the Introduction to the first class in each course. Print out all the packets at once and keep them on hand in a 3–ring binder, or print individual pages as needed. Worksheets contain fill–in–the–blank or multiple choice questions that should be completed as you work through the class or as you prepare for the Quiz. By the end of the course, you will have assembled a sizable collection of reference materials.
Quizzes and the Final Exam
The multiple-choice Quiz at the end of each class contains 10–25 questions and the Final Exam at the end of the course contains 25–50 multiple-choice questions. Each quiz may be taken only once, but the Final Exam may be retaken if you score less than 80 points. Both the Quizzes and the Final Exam are based on materials found in Class Modules and Tastings. Information contained in videos is not tested.
Do I get a certificate when I finish my course?
Students achieving a score of 80% or above on their Final Exam will receive a printable Wine Spectator School certificate suitable for framing.
Courses can be completed without tasting and Class Modules contain all the information required to know wine from an intellectual perspective. Nevertheless, appreciating wine is a sensual experience and completing the tastings will greatly increase your understanding of wine. There are many options regarding when and where to taste:
- Most students share their tasting homework with friends. To hold your own wine tasting party, all you need to do is buy the wines, have glasses on hand, print out a copy of the tutored tasting and one copy of the tasting journal page for each participant.
- Some students work through the tasting while they're on-line
- A few take the tutored tasting and tasting journal pages to a local restaurant or bar where they can purchase the wines by the glass
A Note About Purchasing Course Wines
Part of learning about wine is learning how to purchase wine. At Wine Spectator School, students purchase their own wines. To see which wines are required for each course, read the Wine List in the Course Catalog. You can print out the list and take it to your local wine merchant. Because most wines are not widely available, the Wine List recommends styles of wine rather than specific brands. This means that your local merchant should be able to recommend a wine from their own stock that will satisfy the tasting goals.
Students around the world —from Hong Kong and Singapore to Canada and the United States, from Mexico and Brazil to Spain and Denmark— report that they are able to find the wines they need to complete the tastings. Rather than purchasing all of the course wines in a single trip, many students enjoy a weekly excursion to the wine store. Take this opportunity to build a lasting relationship with your wine merchant or try out a couple stores in your area. Finally, the suggested wines are available in various price ranges; buy at your own comfort level. A more expensive wine does not necessarily provide a better illustration of a given lesson.
Additional Tasting Materials
In addition to wines, the following materials are suggested:
- Glasses: one per taster, per wine.
The glasses should be tulip-shaped, with a profile that narrows toward the lip.
- Corkscrew to open bottles
- Water to cleanse the palate and hydrate
- Spit container: opaque cup
- White napkin or paper towel
- Tasting Checklist printed out from the class introduction
- A pen or pencil
- Adequate lighting
- Some tastings also call for basic foods that highlight food and wine interactions
About how much do the wines for each course cost?
You can count on spending $10–15 per bottle. The ABC courses suggest 6 wines, making the total wine cost $60–90. The Understanding courses suggest 20 wines, bringing the total wine cost to about $350–400. Finally, the seminar courses suggest 8–12 wines. Of course, you can always spend more, but if you'd like to reduce your costs, consider sharing the tasting with friends and splitting the wine cost. Another option is to buy half bottles or go to a wine bar where you can purchase wines by the glass. Remember that you'd probably be buying wine anyway — and that the leftover wines can be enjoyed for a couple days after the tasting.
How do I get the course materials?
The course and all course materials are accessible on-line. Much of the material, including video-clips, winemaker insights, quizzes and exams require an internet connection. Some of the materials —such as worksheets, study guides and tasting forms— can be downloaded and printed out. Like the course packets you used in college, these materials provide a handy reference that you'll keep long after you have completed the course. The materials in Understanding Wine easily fill a 1–inch wide 3–ring binder. The other courses will fill a 1/2-inch wide 3–ring binder. You are welcome to share the tasting forms with friends and family should you hold a wine tasting party. Please note that your login, along with the online and printed materials (other than the tasting form), are strictly for your own personal use. (See the site's Terms and Conditions for all the legalese and copyright information.)
How do I view the videos?
The courses contain links to videos, which are formatted to be viewed online using Flash. To download the latest version of Flash, you can get it at Adobe
How do I contact my professor if I have a course question?
You can converse with an instructor on the Learn Wine Forum via the link at the top of the school pages. Alternatively, you can send an e-mail via the "contact us" link at the bottom of the browser window.
How long does it take to complete a course?
The amount of time it takes to complete a course depends on the length of your course. Each course contains one to ten classes and the rule of thumb is that each class can be completed in 60–120 minutes. Understanding Wine contains ten classes packed with more than 70 video-clips, worksheets for each class and 10 tutored tastings; allow 120 minutes for each class or about 20 hours for the course. The ABCs of Wine Tasting contains three classes, and two of those classes are mainly tutored tastings; allow 60–90 minutes per class or four hours for the course. You might want to take one class each week or every other week; it all depends on your schedule. Some students dive right in and complete the ABC course in one weekend; others take a month or two to complete the course.
How long do I have access to my course?
You can access your course as long as your WineSpectator.com membership is current.
What are the main differences between courses for winelovers and courses for professionals?
Both the consumer and trade courses cover the terms and concepts important for understanding and describing wines. The trade courses add wine sales and service information to the wine appreciation information in the consumer courses. In addition, specialized worksheets help staff immediately apply course materials to their job. To learn more about our courses for the trade, look at the Course Catalog: Courses for Professionals. Our two trade courses are the ABCs of Wine Sales and Service and Understanding Professional Wine Sales and Service. Beyond these two trade-specific courses, any course in the Course Catalog for Winelovers: Continue Learning section will be useful.
How do I give a course as a gift?
Wine Spectator School courses are popular gifts for Father's Day, Mother's Day, Valentine's Day, college graduation, Christmas and Hanukkah. When you give a membership
to WineSpectator.com, you're giving full access to all the Wine Spectator School courses.
If you have questions about Wine Spectator School, please contact us.