The WSET diploma is issued by the British-based Wine & Spirit Education Trust. An individual can receive the diploma only after two years of study and “extensive written and blind tasting examinations.” If an individual meets these requirements, he may place the initials “D.W.S.” after his name. The DWS stands for Diploma in Wine & Spirits. Most of those who hold the diploma are sommeliers and wine and spirits salespeople.
Some of the 98 Americans don’t fit the usual mold of DWS holders. Hellman points out the example of Jonathan Grossweiler, who is “a powerfully built, shaven-headed ex-Marine from somewhere in New Jersey.” He works as a corrections officer in a prison for sex offenders. Grossweiler was interviewed by Hellman about his acheivement. Here are a few of the more interesting excerpts:
Q: Any bumps along the way to graduating?
A: In a perfect world, you could finish in two years. I failed the written exam the first time around. That was in 2005. When something is tough, I always fall back on the Marine Corps. If I could do boot camp and be a jarhead, I can do this. So the next year, I retook the exam and passed.
Q: Is wine just about pleasure, or is there something more to immersing yourself in this culture?
A: I think that wine is one of the great equalizers of the world. Everyone has a nose, a palate, and so you meet all kinds of people and you drink wine together and talk about what you’re tasting.
Q: Do you ever talk to the inmates about wine?
A: Not to the inmates. But I’m the resident wine geek for the other corrections officers. They’ll be lots of questions now that Valentine’s Day is coming, and I’m glad to answer them. Why would you get knowledge and not help people out?