Record Demand for Wine and Spirit Education in South Africa

New figures from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) reveal that demand for wine and spirits education is higher than ever both in South Africa and globally.

WSET, the largest global provider of qualifications in the field of wines and spirits, is reporting a record 85,487 candidates taken globally in the academic year finishing 31 July 2017, an increase of 19% on last year, marking 15 years of growth. The UK continued to lead the global table with candidate numbers up 14% to 19,401 with Mainland China and USA following closely behind, while South Africa fell in 19th place seeing 14% growth in candidate numbers compared to the 2015-16 academic year.

As more and more consumers seek to learn more about wine and spirits, the need for more knowledgeable staff is rising, encouraging and businesses to prioritise formal training and accredited qualifications to cater to customers’ discerning tastes.

Top 10 WSET Markets for the Academic Year 2016/17 (growth from previous year):

  1. UK (+14%)
  2. Mainland China (+41%)
  3. USA (+48%)
  4. Canada (+4%)
  5. Hong Kong (+16%)
  6. France (+32%)
  7. Australia (+27%)
  8. Taiwan (+5%)
  9. South Korea (+13%)
  10. Switzerland (+11%)
  11. South Africa (+14%)

Looking Ahead

In the last year, WSET expanded its global reach with the opening of its first international office in Hong Kong and launching courses in new markets including Czech Republic and Montenegro. WSET welcomed over 100 new Approved Programme Providers and there are now 750 Providers offering WSET courses to wine, spirits and sake consumer enthusiasts and trade professionals in over 70 countries.

In South Africa, four Approved Programme Providers now offer WSET courses. 2016 also saw the launch of the first WSET Diploma centre in the region through The International Wine Education Centre, which has already welcomed 10 candidates onto the esteemed course.

This year, as the USA remains a strong region for growth across the wine, spirits and sake arenas, WSET will be cementing its presence in the market with the appointment of a dedicated team on-territory that will nurture the future potential.

The new academic year will also see the release of the freshly updated Level 2 Award in Spirits and the availability of a full suite of printed materials for the Level 3 Award in Sake.

Ian Harris, WSET Chief Executive, says, “I am delighted to see that more and more businesses are recognising that education and well-trained staff are the foundations to better customer service and stronger profits. After another successful year for WSET we’re now setting out strategies to take our progress to the next level.”

Karen Douglas, WSET Director of Education, adds, “The new academic year will also see the release of an improved Level 2 Award in Spirits following the hard work of our Global Education team to make sure WSET offers the most up-to-date and best-in-class education through its network of Approved Programme Providers worldwide.”

A World of Wines and Spirits

The extensive range of wine, spirit and sake samples tasted through courses also makes WSET a key contributor to the market. Through WSET classroom tastings across the world WSET was responsible for approximately 154,759 litres of wine last year – equivalent to 1,548 bath tubs. This makes WSET bigger than Honduras in terms of volume of wine, contributing R64.6 million to the global market. 1,287 litres were tasted through WSET courses in South Africa alone.

Through spirit and sake courses, WSET was also responsible for a further 3,121 litres of spirits and approximately 566 litres of sake.

These totals are made up of hundreds of thousands of 50ml (wine and sake) and 15ml (spirits) classroom samples that make up the minimum tasting requirement for a WSET course. They do not include the thousands of additional bottles bought by candidates taking the courses online or tasting at home in preparation for exams.

To learn more about WSET qualifications and find a local Approved Programme Provider visit the website at

WSET Classroom

WSET Wine Tasting