Wine is Serious. Who Knew.

Several years ago, the movie Somm revolutionized how people viewed those who choose wine as a career. The short-lived but similar televised quasi-sequel, Uncorked, seen on the Esquire channel, further apprised people about the amount of work and knowledge it takes to become a true wine expert. All of the people in these programs were pushing for the ultimate designation of Master Sommelier.

Somm Practice Tasting
Somm Practice Tasting

One of the standout features of both of these programs is the amount of time that the candidates spend tasting, tasting, and more tasting. The knowledge part is a given. Having to learn everything from the planting of the vine all the way to the full winemaking process can sometimes be overwhelming, but for those of us who are passionate about wine, it’s a price we’re willing to pay. And like the tasting part, it’s a mandatory component of earning a wine designation.

Wine Education Up Close and Personal

I attend a Monday night sommelier education/tasting group, even though not all of us are working towards a sommelier certification.  There are ten of us in the group, and three of us already have our sommelier titles, with two (possibly three) more ready to start their journeys. Some of us who are looking for our next designations and not all of them are sommelier-related. For instance, Tom already has his Intro Sommelier, Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) L2, and California Wine Appellation Specialist (CWAS) – through Master Sommelier David Glancy’s San Francisco Wine School – designations, and is looking towards WSET L3, WSET Diploma, and possibly a Master of Wine Certification.

Nearly all of us are looking forward to having a career in wine, whether it’s being a floor sommelier, winery owner, or a writer and educator. The latter would be me.

I am also an Intro Sommelier and CWAS. My focus (because I’m a “woman of a certain age” and not a floor somm), is on the Society of Wine Educators (SWE) path of Certified Specialist of Wine and Certified Wine Educator. I have taken the Certified Sommelier exam but was not successful simply because I don’t work as a floor somm and don’t have the strong, muscle-memory serving skills required to pass that level of the exam. I may tackle the WSET L2 later, but it depends on my work schedule and, of course, The (ever important) Budget™.

The Usual Schedule

Wines, Water, and Bucket
Wines, Water, and Bucket

Our Monday evenings consist of first tackling a multiple choice and T/F exam from samples gleaned from the Internet.  We debate, second-guess, discuss, argue, and celebrate (or moan) our results. Humbling, indeed. For our current levels, that works just fine and lets us know where we are solid and where we need to strengthen the gaps in our knowledge. For those of us going into WSET and SWE, there will be essay questions that will be a part of the higher levels, but we’ll tackle those at a later date.

After the exam, we begin blind tasting two wines and filling out the appropriate deductive tasting “grids” for our respective interests. For instance, Tom is filling out the WSET L3 Systematic Approach to Tasting (SAT), I am filling out the SWE Logical Tasting Rationale grid, and everyone else is filling out The Court of Master Sommeliers Certified Sommelier Tasting Grid, which is in two parts: red wines and white wines.

The blind tasting follows the method used in the Certified Exam, although once past the Certified level, the number and complexity of the wines increase, as does the method of analysis.

Nearly all of us are looking forward to having a career in wine, whether it’s being a floor sommelier, winery owner, or a writer and educator. The latter would be me.

As an aside but very important component of all of this is that the metric system, geology, and geography become very important in your life. This is true even if you’ve never studied any in school or bothered about them otherwise. The importance of liters, milliliters, hectares, kilometers, regions, soil types, etc., become an intrinsic part of your lexicon, and after a while, you don’t even think about it.

Enjoy the photos and (especially the) vids and see you next time!




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