It’s almost been three months since I last published an article here – work and study have taken priority, along with various other significant life events.
Recently I received the results of our first examination, and now I feel confident and free enough to continue writing again.
Unit 2 is the part of the WSET Diploma that covers viticulture and vinification (growing of grapevines and turning it into wine), and it was quite a densely packed subject. Even though it was a multiple choice examination there were still real fears of failure (the pass mark is 55%). A Pass with Merit meant I had achieved a score in the 65%-74% range. I’m happy with this result, but I am also more aware of how much more I need to learn and internalise in the future.
(This doesn’t mean I don’t have to worry about viti-vini in the future – there will be questions in future units that will ask you to explain various practices used in different regions and styles of wine… so don’t throw away that textbook yet!)
In the meantime, my current study is now focused on fortified wines.
A Whole New World
In simple terms, fortified wines are those where extra alcohol is added. An easy way to think of it is to be aware that “fortification = make stronger”, referring to the wine’s alcoholic strength.
Of course, I’ll have to study this in much more detail.
As I read and study more deeply into the subject, I’m finding out more about the history and styles of fortified wines around the world. This is eye-opening, especially considering that fortified wines are usually confined to one small area of a wine list, in contrast to the vast collection of still wines that are featured.
In addition to learning more about the wines, I am also learning more about myself. Specifically, I currently have some weaknesses in my tasting ability.
This probably doesn’t affect my past experience, but when it comes to fortified wines things start to lean towards extremes. It’s no longer enough to safe within the range of Medium(-) and Medium(+) within certain categories, because stylistically these wines are made using extreme measures unused in the production of ‘normal’ table wines.
I seem to have a hard time recognising acidity – I learned that sherry is usually quite low in acidity, and yet it still seems to make my mouth water, a key indicator of acidity in still wines. This is something that I will have to overcome in the coming months.
In addition to that, I cannot just focus on tasting various fortified wines from around the world; I will need to keep an eye on the theory component as well. Not just about the wines themselves, or the production process, but also historical and commercial information and data will need to be internalised.
I’m intimidated, but also excited for the opportunity to expand my knowledge. This is exactly the sort of challenge I need to push my limits and grow, not just as a sommelier, but as a man of the world.
The important thing is to keep moving, rack up small successes and keep my eyes on the prize. I hope you enjoy reading as I share my learning process with you here.
Read more: New? Start Here