Big award for WSET


It is no secret that the London-based Wine and Spirit Education Trust is proud of its considerable achievements, described in The global wine education leader. Today it can announce a particularly prestigious new feather in its cap. The WSET has been awarded The Queen’s Award for Enterprise 2015 in the International Trade category. Judged against all sorts of precise criteria, it has been judged to have demonstrated all-round excellence in reaching international markets. (The only other wine-related company to have won the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in International Trade was Fine + Rare in 2011 while Farr Vintners won what was then called the Queen’s Award for Export in 1995.)

Founded in 1969, relatively low-key and strictly British for the first few years of its existence, WSET is now the world’s dominant provider of wine and spirit education. WSET courses are available in 18 languages, across more than 60 countries, and in the past decade the proportion of candidates taking their qualifications outside the UK has grown from 37% to over 75% while the total number of candidates more than quadrupled. In the last academic year 56,215 people worldwide sat for an internationally recognised WSET qualification.

In a statement the Trust observes, ‘perhaps most satisfying for a British business operating in the wine sector is the growth in students taking WSET qualifications in some of the world’s most well-established wine-producing and exporting countries, including France and Australia, which sit firmly within WSET’s top 10 markets. WSET candidate numbers in France have quadrupled since 2008, while Australia delivered an eightfold increase over the same period. As well as growth in traditional wine-producing markets, Greater China [mainland China together with Hong Kong] is fast on the heels of the UK to become WSET’s number one market.’

Developed and maintained by a dedicated team of experts, WSET qualifications are now delivered through a network of over 600 approved course providers worldwide. This international expansion has been led from its London headquarters by WSET’s chief executive, Ian Harris (pictured), recruited in 2002 from sales and marketing in the wine and spirit industry.

Ian Harris and WSET’s Chairman of Trustees, James Simpson MW of Pol Roger, will attend a reception at Buckingham Palace on 14 July to celebrate with representatives from other companies that have won Queen’s Awards this year.

WSET offers a range of courses and qualifications ranging from Level 1, studied over six hours, up to Level 4, a Diploma in Wines and Spirits which usually takes 18 months to complete. Ian Harris was a successful Level 4 Diploma student – the ones I had the honour of awarding at the Guildhall in London during my three years as honorary president of the WSET.