Monday, May 13, 2013

WSET III: The Final Chapter

Thanks Brianna!
Last Tuesday I took the exam that brought to an end 15 weeks of study, anxiety and fraternity.  I have been enrolled in the Wine and Spirits Educational Trust's Level III Advanced class since the middle of January.   On May 7 we all sat for the exam, which counts for 100% of our grade.  The test is comprised of three parts:  50 multiple choice questions, an essay/ short answer section comprised of four large components and a smaller fifth, and a blind tasting of one red and one white wine.   Sounds easy, right?  Yeah, think again.  I fretted over this test for weeks.  Sometimes I felt like pulling my hair out as we struggled through blind flights of wine, trying to listen to each glass to suss out the differentiating characteristics that would give us hints as to whether it was a Chablis, a Sancerre or a Pouilly-Fuisse; a Margaux from a ripe vintage or an Oakville cab from an old-school, austere producer; a lighter Amador Zinfandel or a heady and extracted Southern Rhone.  Is that medium plus tannin or just medium?  Off-dry or medium-dry?  What constitutes a long finish versus a medium plus length of finish?  Yeah, I hope you brought some Tums. 

While I won't see my results for a maddening six to eight weeks (practically unforgivable in this age of scantron grading, but don't get me started), I can report with a fair degree of confidence that I definitely passed, and I feel that I probably passed with merit.  I don't think that passing with distinction is entirely out of the question, but I try to keep a certain balance of humility in my life now.   Nevertheless, I feel good about the outcome, and look very much forward to another notch in the handle of my academic pistol. 

To celebrate: A magnum of Pol-Roger!
But one of the greatest things about this class has been the opportunity to meet, socialize and form friendships with some really spectacular, like minded wine aficionados.  There's an old saying in New Orleans: "It's not what you know, its who your Daddy knows."  I think it's a pretty universal notion and not one limited to the provincial life of my hometown, but I think that the more modern, less patriarchal spin on it is that networking in any field is of paramount importance for career advancement.  And this class gave me an unprecedented ability to network.  On the personal recommendation of a (to remain unnamed) person in my class, I have already secured a new position with a different company, and it promises bright things for Your Humble Narrator.  I have also made some dear friends who I intend to keep in contact with, not because of their industry connections or the contents of their cellars, but because they are genuinely wonderful people with whom I share a lot in common.   First and foremost, our love of the delight and diversity of the world of fermented grapes, but also our sense of adventure, and our love of other cultures (especially as expressed through their wines).

This class has been one of the dominant reasons my blog posts have become so sporadic.  Now that it has concluded, I hope to resume a more furious and regular pace of writing. 

But several shout outs to my classmates first:

Chef Catherine:  You are the Yoda to our Luke Skywalkers.  Without you, so many things would have gone unexplained or been poorly explained.  I could always tell when I had asked a good question, a bad question, or a question that was outside the need-to-know parameters of class.  Thank you for handling my inquiries with grace and intelligence.  I am in your debt.

Mr. James:  Thank you for your unending generosity in sharing lovely selections from your cellar.  Without those bottles, we would have never come to understand as well as we do now the intersection of age and fine wine.  I have learned so much  from what you have shared: what I like in an aged wine, and how much age I like on certain wines.  You have inspired me to buy things for my cellar to be aged for many many years, and I know now that some things I prefer on the more youthful side.

Kevin:  Thank you for your wit, your sense of organization, and your ability to motivate others to action. 

Brianna:  Even though you didn't take the exam, thank you for your support, and your lovely celebratory parting gift.  I only wish you had been there to share it with us!

And to the kids, the students:  I wish you great things in your future.  To have the fortitude to even attempt this, much less follow it through to its conclusion shows that you have a bright future, whether in the biz, or any biz.  Go forth and kick some ass!

To everyone else:  I enjoyed my time with you, and look forward to seeing you again in one of our tasting groups.  I've made some friends, and hope to see you again in a less hair-pulling and studious environment.  Someday soon we'll be able to just DRINK some wine and not ASSESS it.

celebrating some of the delicious things
we had the chance to explore during the15 weeks we met
(please excuse the sometimes poor quality of these cellphone pictures) 





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