Most techniques for pollen-based quantitative climate reconstruction use modern assemblages as a reference data set. We examine the implication of methodological choices in the selection and treatment of the reference data set for climate reconstructions using Weighted Averaging Partial Least Squares (WA-PLS) regression and records of the last glacial period from Europe. We show that the training data set used is important because it determines the climate space sampled. The range and continuity of sampling along the climate gradient is more important than sampling density. Reconstruction uncertainties are generally reduced when more taxa are included, but combining related taxa that are poorly sampled in the data set to a higher taxonomic level provides more stable reconstructions. Excluding taxa that are climatically insensitive, or systematically overrepresented in fossil pollen assemblages because of known biases in pollen production or transport, makes no significant difference to the reconstructions. However, the exclusion of taxa overrepresented because of preservation issues does produce an improvement. These findings are relevant not only for WA-PLS reconstructions but also for similar approaches using modern assemblage reference data. There is no universal solution to these issues, but we propose a number of checks to evaluate the robustness of pollen-based reconstructions.