The Test, or Why You Haven’t Seen Me Around Town in Awhile

How many notecards? 800?

So…many…notecards!

They say when you love something, you should let it consume you. I love wine, but that doesn’t mean all I get to do is drink it. Sommelier exams involve not only blind tasting but “theory” as well, which means I’m required to know important facts about wines from all over the world. For the last five months I’ve been studying for the Wine & Spirit Education Trust Level 3 Award in Wine & Spirits. When I sit for the exam, I’ve got to taste two wines blind (one red, one white) as well as pass a written portion where I’ll be tested for knowledge of wine laws, appellations, soil compositions, climates, winemaking techniques, maturation processes, fermentation, grape growing, vine training and pruning, grape varieties, styles of wine, and even some of the basics for spirits…there’s so much to know!

Of course, that’s part of the reason I love wine: there’s no end to it, there’s always something new and exciting to learn and taste. But it also means that studying for these  exams is hard! How will I remember everything? How will I become good at this? I think it’s true that in order to become a master at something, you have to let it totally consume you. I can see why people who go on to become Master Sommeliers, or Masters of Wine, spend years studying…people’s relationships are taxed, they lose sleep, the stress of exams weighs down on you, your whole life becomes wine, wine, wine! It’s sort of a beautiful thing though, and something not everyone is lucky enough to find in their lives–an all-consuming passion for something they love and a willingness to go after it. It could be anything: music, cars, painting, writing, math, whatever. But I think this is where greatness comes from. When you really love something and you dedicate yourself to it, you’re going to get really good at it. Success seems to come from passion and a lot of hard work.

And so, I study. This month alone I’ve made about 800 notecards. I’ve taken practice exams. I read wine magazines exclusively (I will admit, I’ll be happy to sit down and read a good novel one of these days). I write articles about wine. I think about wine. I dream about wine. And I’m only at the beginning of my journey. When I peer into the future, I feel really excited and happy and nervous. I can’t wait to travel more and see all these regions I read about in books for myself. I can’t wait to keep writing, and interviewing, and meeting awesome folks in the business. It’s going to be a long road, but they also say that life is all about the journey.

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