Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Amazing Reach of Somm

I took the Advanced Exam with the Court of Master Sommeliers in the fall of 2010. It was humbling and difficult but, it was manageable. I did not pass all three sections but, it gave me insight to what I needed to prepare for when I retook it. It was five days long; two and a half days of lectures and two and a half days of testing.

Following this experience the movie Somm came out. "Four men will do anything to pass the most difficult test you've NEVER heard of... SOMM takes the viewer on a humorous, emotional and illuminating look into a mysterious world - the Court of Master Sommeliers and the massively intimidating Master Sommelier Exam. The Court of Master Sommeliers is one of the world's most prestigious, secretive, and exclusive organizations. Since its inception almost 40 years ago, less than 200 candidates have reached the exalted Master level. The exam covers literally every nuance of the world of wine, spirits and cigars. Those who have passed have put at risk their personal lives, their well- being, and often their sanity to pull it off. Shrouded in secrecy, access to the Court Of Master Sommeliers has always been strictly regulated and cameras have never been allowed anywhere near the exam, until now. How much do you think you know about wine? SOMM will make you think again. SOMM takes you on the ultimate insider's tour into a world of obsession, hope, and friendship in red, blanc and sometimes rose."

Now that this movie has come out, it seems there is a little more pressure. I am taking the exam again this year. It is restructured since the last time. 3 days of classroom separated from the 3 days of exams by four months. So many applicants applied for the one exam date offered this year that a second needed to be added. The costs went up too.

Today marks the day that I re-assess and kick it into a higher gear.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Wine and Mexico

I recently became interested in learning about the wine industry in Mexico. I have visited Mexico at least two dozen times throughout my life to visit family and see sites. I have been in Mexico City, Cuernavaca, Acapulco, Celaya, San Miguel de Allende, Guadalajara and Leon. In all of these cities I can recall Sangrias, Rums, Tequilas, Cervezas and Micheladas but, in all of my dining experiences in Mexico, I do not recall wines. 

With this in mind, I looked into the topic to see if there were some solid facts on wine consumption and trends in Mexico. The results look like China might not be the only market worth watching. 

According to the California Wine Export Program  "Currently 70% of the wine consumed in Mexico is imported from foreign countries." This was no surprise considering the hot climate but, what did generate interest was the following piece, " Nationwide wine consumption has increased in the last few years... some wine experts estimate an annual 12% growth rate in consumption in the next few years. Mexico’s transition to more wine consumption over other alcoholic beverages, increased interest among different consumer sectors including women and young adults, and growing interest among consumers in trying novel wines makes Mexico an excellent market for the promotion and sales of U.S. wines."

As for the other 30%  of consumed wine, the home-grown wine seems to be growing in stature and abilities. I even found a few sites promoting Mexican Wine Tours which I would otherwise consider to be a scam but, the majority are in Baja.

The wine growing regions do not  go below Mexico City. The regions include:
           Baja California, Sonora (Wine region North) 
           La Laguna- (Coahuila and Durango)
           Center- (Zacatecas, Aguascalientes and Queretaro) 

Though 70-75% on the grapes are used for distillation and 10-15% are used for table grapes, as you move North, the wine production increases. You will find CariƱena, Barbera, Chenin Blanc, Syrah, Malbec and many more. 

This is a brief tickler, stay tuned for a more in depth look into Mexican wine consumer's habits and the capabilities of the wineries. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Some of the Best Websites for Wine Study

These are the sites that every wine student should visit regularly.
Guild of Sommeliers Website- it requires a membership fee but, the information is always as current as possible and you can drill down into every topic imaginable.

Court of Master Sommelier- Great resource for study guides, reading lists and inspiration (by reading about those who have achieved the "Master Sommelier" Designation.

Masters Of Wine- Incredible resource for study direction, practice exams and inspiration.

United States Bartenders Guild- It requires a membership fee but, offers great resources on all things beverage and local chapters usually coordinate great tasting events master distillers and sponsor mixology sessions and competitions.

Cicerone- This website offers great insight into the growing world of craft beers. It also certifies beer servers and stewards and offers a course of study to become a Cicerone (the beer worlds equivalent to a Sommelier)

Decanter- This is the best site for staying current on wine news and looking up vintage notes.

Wine-Pages- Great resources for vintage a region notes.

OperaWine- For Italian wines. Each week new articles on Italy's 100 Great Producers selected by WineSpectator. 

The Bubbly Professor- this site offers quizzes and regional information.

On the Wine Trail- Alfonso Cevola is one of the most passionate wine writers in the US. The site is not necessarily structured to be educational but, the information is always current and accurate and a fun read.

Vinography- This site has great research on vintage and regions.

Dr Vino- This site has some great info on regions and good interviews with winemakers.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Facing the Doppelgangers

It should be no surprise but, always shocks me how often I am left to consider the effect of foreign language on the wine industry in the US. Forget the European wine laws and confusing rules that go in the bottle. I am talking strictly about pronunciation. It is a relevant topic for me. If a server cannot pronounce a wine, they will likely avoid recommending it and thus, it will not sell as expected.

Living in the greatest nation on the planet, Americans do not focus on learning foreign languages the way Europeans do. (For my foreign friends, I mean no disrespect, your nations are great too!) Therefore, the average American is destined to fear or butcher any word that is not "American".

I often sit in meetings or attend tastings where the reps completely destroy the pronunciation of the wines they are presenting. Call it prejudice or call it snobbery but, when I hear the name butchered, I often ignore the rest. I realize that a rep may be able to describe the wine beautifully, call out all of its greatest attributes, name the winery's 5 generations of winemakers but, if you can't pronounce the wine, the rest loses credibility. 

I do not have a feasible answer to the issue. I do not know how to pull theses apparitions, these ghostly counterparts of the wineries, into fully representing the soul of their wines. I wish there was a polite way to correct a sales persons pronunciation without throwing their confidence for the remainder of their presentation. But, until sales people learn the full scope of their craft, wines and wineries can only hope that curiosity drives a buyer past the doppelganger and into the bottle.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Among Giants, Standing On My Tippy Toes...

There are times in life when you are humbled by the circumstances of your surroundings. This week, I was humbled by the people who made up my surroundings. I had the pleasure of spending a week amongst the giants of the wine world. I attended the annual Society of Wine Educators Conference and spent the week in aww of those in attendance. Amongst these giants were Masters of Wine; Debra Meiburg, Mark deVere, Roger Bohmrich, Peter Marks, Sheri Sauter Morano, Master Sommeliers; Guy Stout, David Glancy, Tim Gaiser, Serafin Alvaredo, Sheral Schowe and Doug Frost who rightly carries the two distinctions, notable writers; Gerald Asher, Alfonso Cevola, Matilde Parente, Debora Parker Wong and a multitude of other students, educators, enthusiasts and bloggers.

As I write this, I am watching the 2012 Summer Olympics and marveling at the years these olympians spend preparing for their day in the sun. I can't help making the comparison of the wine "olympians"  I have had the pleasure to meet who have also trained, practiced, sacrificed and prepared for the day when they too are called upon to display the mastery of their craft. I give both their due respect.

I benefited from every seminar that I attended but, in tribute to these great industry leaders, I would like to say a little about those who impacted me the most.

Tim Gaiser MS: I had the pleasure of sitting in on two of Tim Gaisers sessions; "Olfactory Memory & Submodalities" and "Discovering Dry German Rieslings". The former taught me how to read a students' and my own learning cues, the subtleties of the nuances of attention that when read correctly can be controlled and focused to maximize your performance, especially when the strongest of focus is needed. The latter, was an exquisite journey through the different expressions of dry German Rieslings beginning with Whittmann's 2010 "Morstein"Grosses Gewachs from the Rheinhessen with it's tropical fruits notes, sea shell minerality and citrus flower nose and ending with Franz Kunster's 2010 Erstes Gewachs "Hochheimer Holle" from the Rheingau with it's pineapple, tarragon, lemon grass nose that finished rich and concentrated on the palate. My wine lexicon and my tooth enamel will never forget this tasting.

Doug Frost MS, MW: Doug hosted a very entertaining session on Wines of Greece. Along with an entertaining pronunciation guide of the terrifying to say Agiorgitiko and Xinomavro, he walked us through the food friendly varieties of Greece and it's islands, showing similar application to its wines as one might find in Italy and France. Doug has an approach to explaining the seemingly impossible that makes one feel they can build a battle ship after learning how super glue works.

Guy Stout MS: Guy spoke on the "Wines of the Medoc" and with his Texan swagger and charming southern attempt at french, he lulled the audience into his vision, passion and perception of what the multitude of terroirs have to offer within this relatively small growing area. The tasting was revealing at every swig from the 2008 Chateau Loudenne Blanc a 60/40 blend Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, it was a beautiful expression from the region, rich acacia and vanilla notes, with crisp minerality highlighted by even more floral notes. Among my other favorties were Ch. Lannesan from Haut Medoc 2004 and Ch. Pichon Longuieville, Comtesse de Lalande from Pauillac.

Alfonso Cevola: Alfonso spoke to the changes in DOCG classification that Italy put in place prior to the close of 2011. He began with a colorful history of Italian Wine and finished with a discussion on recommended wines that sprung from the question "what should we watch out for". Watching Alfonso lovingly discuss the wines of his heritage is nothing short of inspiring.On The Wine trail in Italy