Saturday was intense. In the past (college, high school, etc), I haven’t really gotten too worked up over exams. I would occasionally experience a slight moment of panic the night before the test, or a few butterflies as I picked up my pencil and closed my book, but never anything too extreme. This was not the case for the Sommelier exam. Maybe it was the seemingly endless amount of information and abundance of small details combined with the fact that, unlike college, I was attempting to study between working a full and part-time job. Or perhaps, in the past two years I had fallen out of practice when it came to cramming. Then there was the pressure of the impact that passing would have on my very immediate future. Whatever it was, I was a nervous mess when I walked into the room at 9:30 Saturday morning.
First was the written exam. It was difficult, but nothing that couldn’t be handled if some (ok, quite a bit) of time had been spent studying. However, despite the hours that I had spent with a book in front of me, I couldn’t remember the names of the producers or regions from Chile…which of course was one of the fill in the blanks. After a short break, we moved on to the second part of the exam: blind tasting. The concept of being able to describe (accurately, nonetheless) specific details of a wine such as grape varietal, climate, country, region of the country, price range, and food pairing is challenging in itself. Now, imagine six wines sitting in front of you, which you must evaluate with extreme precision. In 7 1/2 minutes. It’s not easy, and the masters have to do it in almost half that amount of time, which is basically unfathomable to me. As the clock was ticking down and I was frantically evaluating my last wine, my pen ran out of ink. With the same intensity and desperation of a doctor screaming for a defibrillator to save a dying patient’s life, I called out for a spare pen, ANY PEN!!! Luckily, one of my classmates was equipped to help. I saw the pen arching towards the table in slow motion, snatched it up in mid-air, and continued to scribble as fast as my hand and brain would allow.
Then, as suddenly as it had begun, it was over. We all sat around the table where we had spent the last two months drinking, learning and laughing, engaging in nervous conversation and waiting for our names to be called from the office for our official evaluation. Of the original twelve, eight of us passed (two people didn’t take the test at all). My heart goes out to the two who didn’t make it, but I know that they will excel on their second go-round. Good luck to you both!
So in honor of getting certified, and of the twelve people I have grown to know and love over the past two months, here are a few images of our journey along the way to becoming Sommeliers.
If you’re interested in becoming a Sommelier yourself, I would highly recommend taking the course that I did. It is offered by the US Sommelier Association; the CEO, Rick Garced, instructed all but one of our classes. The next course is available in Miami January 2012. Sign up soon, because it’s a small group and does fill up quickly. Happy tasting! 🙂