Somm School Dayz
Here is a day in the life of a Master Sommelier - Level One student:
7:58 am: Sleepily enter the elevator. Overhear that there is some sort of "Secret Somm Society" in the building. Try to decipher whether you actually heard that, or if you're still dreaming.
8:00 am: Roll into Elevage, the hotel restaurant. Decide to give the whole "Secret Somm Society" thing a whirl. You slip the fact that you are a Sommelier-In-Training into your initial conversation with your server.
8:22 am: You weren't dreaming! That breakfast sandwich was on the house! Shhh
8:30 am: Head to the Grand Cru Ballroom to sign in and meet your fellow students - all shuffling through stacks of note cards. You realize most of these folks are professionals in food service, wine shops or wineries. Your foundation of "we drink lots of wine, we'll be fine" becomes a bit wobbly.
9:00 am: Class officially begins. You meet your instructors and learn a bit about viticulture and vinification via a PowerPoint presentation. You learn that you only have one more hour until you can trade in this hotel coffee for some fine wine. Yes!
10:00 am: Bring on the first flight of wines! You work through the "Deductive Tasting Method" and learn to taste for fruits, non-fruits, bitterness, sweetness, tannins, acidity, alcohol, finish and complexity.
11:00 am: The water hose method of teaching continues and you cover the basics of food and beverage pairing.
11:05 am: You take a quick trip over to Europe, and learn all about the many and varied European wine laws, then explore the wines of Burgundy and Bordeaux.
Noon: Lunch break, wine, and brain reboot. Review and compare notes with others.
1:00 pm: Another flight of wines! Only this time it's not so easy - they pass the microphone down the classroom tables, and one by one, each student must stand up and talk about the wine they are evaluating - the instructors making gentle corrections along the way.
1:30 pm: You are off to explore Loire Valley, Alsace, Rhone Valley and Languedoc-Roussilon, Champagne and other sparkling wines of the world.
3:00 pm: After a short break to catch your breath... Another flight of wines! Then you explore Italy from north to south then on to Greece.
6:00 pm: Brain fried - must find happy hour, dinner and STUDY with our new found friends!
Midnight: Hit the hay, happy The Epicurean has comfy beds.
Day two is similar to the day before only your first wine flight begins promptly at 9 am and it seems like they turned up that firehose of information to eleven. You travel to Germany, Austria, Spain, Portugal, take a break for another wine flight then continue on to North America, South America, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand - all before lunch!
After lunch we have another wine flight to practice the deductive tasting exam, which is the test you have to pass to become a Level Two Certified Sommelier. Then you learn about dessert and fortified wines, beer, sake, and spirits as well as wine service and salesmanship. Yes, there is more to being a sommelier than just being knowledgeable about wine!
After a short break it is time to take everything you have learned and put it to the test. You know you must pass this written exam to take home the pin, and everyone you know knows you are doing this. With a 90% pass rate, you convince yourself you've got this, plus it is 70 multiple choice questions so process of elimination will help. Proctor announces "begin." You break into a sweat when questions start sounding the same, and many are worded differently than the way you studied, and how did you completely miss studying a couple of these things? And time is ticking away... no pressure.
When you are done with your exam you hand it over to the proctor and head out to the water cooler which is all abuzz. She was one of the last to finish the exam, pretty sure She had too many questions wrong. After comparing notes out in the waiting room you realize there must have been several versions of the exam, or you really misread some of the questions. Not helpful.
You are all summoned back in to the ballroom for the awards ceremony. With roughly 100 students in our class, we are hoping we are not one of the unfortunate ten whose names wouldn't be called. His name is one of the first names called, yippee! He shakes hands with all the instructors and proudly bounces back to His seat, certificate and lapel pin in hand. Slowly, they called another 80 or so brand new Sommeliers up for their exciting photo op moment. Finally She gets called, looking extremely relieved, the instructors joke that they were messing with us - saying how long that drive home would be if there was only one sommelier in the car - Ahh what a great society!
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