Study break turns into more learning about WINE

2013-05-31 20.21.04

I have been busy as a bee frantically studying for my WSET advanced exam in a week. The test, which covers all things from wine making techniques and laws, to grape varieties, regional designations (some in foreign languages mind you) and proper tasting notes, will be challenging but I am excited to have a noteworthy certificate to show off and the knowledge to back it up. Some, if not all, of you might be wondering what the WSET even is. For starters, the acronym stands for Wine & Spirits Education Trust, a British organization offering courses in wine and spirits for both business and pleasure. You have all probably heard of the Sommeliers Degree (does the Court of Master Sommeliers ring a bell?). This is another British organization in support of furthering the beverage industry, yet the focus is a bit different than the WSET whose highest title is Master of Wine. In my opinion, we know more and hear more about he Master Sommelier title because these are the folks helping you choose a wine at a restaurant or hotel. The Master of Wine might also be doing that, but it is more than likely on the behind the scenes business side of the industry. Let me quickly state that this is not the case over all, and that I am making very generalized statements. In fact, let me leave Doug Frost to explain these two distinguished sides of the industry. Doug Frost is one of three individuals world-wide holding BOTH titles…needless to say, he knows what he is talking about:

“MW’s vs MS’s?
Some nice person has made me aware of wikipedia’s entry for “Master of Wine.” In it, the author of the entry has noted that “the Master of Wine qualification is recognized as being vastly more difficult.” Of course, the entry is merely re-stating something that Ronn Weigand (also a dual MS/MW and the first person to achieve that status) was quoted as saying in a Janet Fletcher-penned San Francisco Chronicle article. Ronn is welcome to his opinion. But so am I.

I think it’s rather subjective (if not reductive) to state that one title is more difficult than the other; it really depends upon the test taker. If someone is skilled in restaurant floor service and are willing to commit themselves to the memorization required of a Master Sommelier, well, then they will likely find it fairly easy. But if you’ve never worked on a restaurant floor, there is no way (imho) that you are ever going to pass the Master Sommelier exam. You might be able to dash off three Master of Wine essays in your sleep, but for you, the MS exam would be overwhelmingly difficult. You see, it depends upon the test taker, because each of these two tests is different.

The Master Sommelier exam tests people’s ability, experience, understanding and skills in a variety of service settings. The successful candidate is likely to know a great deal about a great many things, but as is typical of a hospitality setting, that sommelier isn’t going to need to write an essay about any of those issues. Conversely, the Master of Wine exam is extremely detailed about matters of grape-growing, winemaking and maturation and, perhaps most importantly, the business of wine. The successful MW candidate probably has no idea which grapes are important in Moldova or any other obscure wine region, but I guarantee you that the MS will. It doesn’t make one exam better or harder than the other, but it does make the exams very different.”

While I’ve been spending lunch breaks and nights studying the all powerful green textbook, I have also been attacking my favorite websites and blogs for deeper industry information. One website in particular has been both extremely entertaining and impressively informative.

I was directed to A Drink With Friends while at work scanning my company’s Twitter feed. I briefly jumped over to the website and was immediately attracted to the clean lines and straight forward web design (I am a creative mind at the end of the day).  I was also intrigued by the site’s emphasis on wine education through stories showcasing people outside of the wine industry. And when I say “outside of the industry” I mean beekeepers, tattoo artists and stay at home dads.  These out of the box mini documentaries combined with the witty “lessons” from Stevie really drew me in and I ended up watching each clip. I even shared them with my mom and friends who I feel could benefit from the straight forward approach to wine knowledge.

I think what Stevie and Josiah have done is a great thing. They have taken their extremely distinguished wine prowess (both studied under the Court of Master Sommeliers; Stevie at level ii & Josiah at level iii) and transformed it into an every man’s video series. A perfectly fitting name, Drink with Friends is definitely a website to check out.

Now for me…it’s back to studying so that I can one day use my wine skills for something just as cool 🙂

2013-05-14 19.50.09