As you know I am studying to take the Certified Sommelier exam within the next year or so; the exam itself has three areas you have to pass in order to become Certified, they are as follows:
- Blind Tasting
Theory is the one I’ve spent the most time on up to this point and service is something I get to practice on a semi-regular basis at work which leaves blind tasting as my biggest weakness (for now anyway). So I went searching for a tasting group that would be willing to have me join and I finally found one! They meet on a weekly basis and cover six wines each session, preferably three whites and three reds. I was instructed to bring a testable wine (the Guild gives you a list of testable varietals and regions that you should focus on prior to the exam) and show up at 9:30am ready to taste.
I walked in at 9:25am and went straight to the back of the restaurant where they have a small wine tasting area; there were three other people there and I knew none of them. I felt slightly out of place and uncomfortable (as usual with this kind of crowd). So I just went for it and introduced myself to those who were there and tried to make as much small talk as possible before it was time to get started.
The coordinator for the group, Woody, was gracious enough to explain to me how they go through the tasting: One person pours the wine for everyone at the table (the bottle must be covered up somehow so we can’t see what it is, hence the blind tasting), then someone else has to claim the wine and whoever claims it gets five minutes on the clock to go through the entire tasting grid out loud ending with a final conclusion on what they think it is. Then we go around the table and present our own final conclusion before the bottle is revealed. Woody then went on to explain that one of the groups main focuses is humility, as is the Court of Master Sommeliers and the Guild of Sommeliers. I smiled and nodded hoping to look like I knew what I was doing but inside my stomach was turning.
We went through the first five wines and I failed to get any of them right but I was okay with that. It came time for the last wine of that day and while it was being poured Woody kept asking “who is claiming this one, who is claiming this one” and nobody was responding so I claimed it. What was I thinking?
The timer started counting down quickly, no going back now… Before I started saying things out loud for everyone to hear I remembered what someone else had told me when they were learning how to blind taste, “if you are going to fail, fail fast”. I’m not sure if that is the right approach all the time but for my very first one I figured it would work. I flew through the grid in about three and a half minutes with a final conclusion of an Old World Pinot Noir. We went around the table and we were all over the place with our conclusions, nobody had the same answer. Woody then unveiled the bottle, it was a Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon! None of us got it right and to my disbelief, nobody ridiculed me or made me feel like a lesser person because of my lack of experience. Instead we began talking about where we went wrong and how to identify it better next time. It’s not like they ridiculed anyone before me but I was still surprised and put at ease at the same time. After it was over we mingled a bit and got to know each other a little better and then it was time to move on with the day. I cannot wait to see what next week has in store, stay tuned…
I would just like to say thank you for following me on my journey to become a Master Sommelier, it means so much to have your support. Please be sure to leave a comment and subscribe to my blog so you can stay up to date on all of my latest adventures!