Take all your previous thoughts about servers, bartenders, and others in the restaurant industry and throw them out the window.
Imagine having to look at a glass of red wine and describe the exact color and viscosity. And no- saying, “It’s red” will not cut it.
From there, stick your nose in the glass (the deeper the better) and take a whiff. Hmm, that wine smells fruity? What kind of fruits? Cherries. Okay, are they dried or baked?
Go through this process for scent and palate, pulling from your repertoire the smell and taste of different flowers, herbs, organic earth and minerals. It may be time for you to start smelling the wet banks of a riverbed or limestone.
Perhaps my favorite description by one of the Master Sommeliers: “This wine smells like you are drinking it while standing beside a well-groomed horse.” Nicely put.
A server, chef or bartender that knows wine has serious talent. And I gathered with more than 100 hopefuls from the industry, to take the Introductory Level I Court of Master Sommeliers course.
Take a semester-long college course and cram it into two eight-hour consecutive day sessions. Combine geography, history, culture and language involving both Old and New World countries. Throw in an application assessment and people skills if you plan to take the Certified exam or beyond.
I argue that the path to becoming a Master Sommelier is harder than most college educations. Not only does it take longer, but everything is self-taught and learned.
“We have a strong network of support within the sommelier community,” said Keith Goldston, a Master Sommelier. Master Sommeliers become mentors to those testing their way through the sommelier levels.
This is not for the faint of heart. Knowing your grapes is just the start. Get into sub-regions, appellations and viticulture next.
Four Master Sommeliers guided us through the rigorous two-day course. They conducted themselves in a manner that perfectly fitted the Court of Master Sommeliers motto- they were humble and approachable. I felt like I could’ve kicked back a beer with them on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
Tomorrow I’ll be posting a few stories from the diverse group that took the course. For those of us that passed, we received a pin and certificate. For many this was just a stepping-stone to become Certified, which is where the work really begins.
“You are going to walk out of here after the exam and think you know about wine,” said Goldston. “But then you’re going to start studying for Certified and realize you know nothing.”
As the world of viticulture unfolds like an ever-growing vine, you continue learning with each tasting and each theory flashcard.
-By Alexa Lampasona for the Food & More blog