Cachaça’s Place in the Wine and Spirits Education Trust Pantheon

Cachaça’s Place in the Wine and Spirits Education Trust Pantheon

I’ve just completed the Wine and Spirits Education Trust Level 2 Spirits Class. Well, almost. I still have the exam to take, but I’m not terribly worried. I’ve put in the work and should be able to pass. I took the Level 1 class over the summer (winter here). It was a rather simple and straightforward class. But I’m really glad I took it rather than jumping to this one because the content for WSET 2 is a bit more in-depth.

As someone interested in cachaça, I was rather surprised to find no mention of it in the WSET 1 class. Surprise, I guess is the wrong word. I could believe that cachaça went unmentioned. Sad, I suppose is a better word.

This time around is different. There’s an entire chapter called Rum and Cachaça in the textbook! Sweet! Well, actually, not that sweet. Not for cachaça anyway. Despite the chapter’s name, there is literally only one paragraph about cachaça. And that paragraph does not define what cachaça is under Brazilian law, nor does it convey the diversity of fermentation, distillation, and aging processes. In other words, the paragraph teaches the reader exactly zero about cachaça.

That the WSET does not have deep knowledge about cachaça does surprise me. They do, after all, have classes all over the world, including in Brazil. So, they have fingers everywhere. They give classes in many different languages. Good lord, they have various sake classes! But, as they do note in the text, cachaça, which has a higher level of production than vodka gets literally no in-depth look.

I can’t just put the blame on WSET here though. The cachaça industry has largely failed in the education sector. The law is so wide that producers can do almost anything. There are very few recognized regional differences, though they exist. Only a few regions are recognized by the federal government for their unique contributions to cachaça. So, how can one educate a foreign consumer or expert on cachaça? Yes, there are a number of books on the subject, but the real reason that WSET remains uninterested in cachaça is that there is very little cachaça available outside of Brazil. As long as it remains unimportant on a global scale, WSET has no need to spend time educating people about it. I suppose they figure that if someone goes to Brazil, they can educate themselves there. But because it’s so difficult to find in foreign markets, it’s not worthy of attention.

I can’t say that I blame them for such a sentiment. I don’t doubt they would like to be able to educate their students more about cachaça. And, I’d bet sometime in the future they do make more of an effort. But that effort goes both ways. The cachaça industry is, hopefully taking baby steps towards educating the broader public. But this will take time and cannot be done without heavy investment in English-language content.

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