Upon reflection, 2019 began and ended for me in the same way: with fireworks.
I was working on both occasions, with not a bad vantage point for Sydney’s famous New Year’s Eve fireworks display.
But just because the year began and ended similarly, it doesn’t mean that nothing happened in between.
Only six months into the job, I was still feeling very new with lots of things to learn.
I was also getting my studies for my second attempt at the Advanced Sommelier Exams into gear.
Somehow the opportunity arose to holiday to Japan with my younger brother, so my usual work and studies were put on hold.
Not that they were ever far behind – I ended up purchasing 3 bottles of Nikka from the Barrel, a Japanese whisky, for the price I would have paid for just one bottle back in Australia.
A 2010 vintage Spanish Gran Reserva Tempranillo from Valdepenas did not go unappreciated either, for what I thought was a bargain price of 980 Yen!!!
Other impressive wines could be found, but was beyond my budget at the time…
Some exotic wines that I have never seen in Australia…
Some things couldn’t be found though, even if you did have the money.
We also managed to fit in a visit to Yamazaki Distillery, and I enjoyed a tasting of some of these rare gems.
And all too soon the holiday was over…
Returning to work, naturally a tasting of Krug Champagne was in order.
Studies resumed, and training for Tasting became more regular, with even a few of my colleagues getting into the fun of it.
Suddenly I am traveling again. What the heck?
This time it was with my girlfriend. To be fair, we had been overdue a nice long trip together, and there was never going to be a perfect time, so why not now?
It was less about wine and spirits this time. We visited one of her childhood dream destinations, Universal Studios, where I got my first taste of (non-alcoholic) Butterbeer.
We rode bicycles around Mount Fuji…
And of course what childhood dream would be complete without Disneyland?
Back to work, and studies are intensifying again.
More studying, more tasting. A special highlight was a tasting hosted by New Zealand Wines.
And more tasting, both conventional and unusual.
And I found out I was granted one of 12 places for the Sommeliers Australia Scholarship.
Taste Champagne, a Champagne showcase hosted by Tyson Stelzer, was on the calendar for this month.
Then it was time to fly to Melbourne for the Sommelier’s Australia Scholarship.
Without a doubt, this was one of the most intense and educational experiences of my life.
To sit in a room with eleven of my peers, guided by some of the wine industry’s top leaders, in tasting some of the most iconic examples of wines from around the world, this was an experience money simply couldn’t buy.
A sincere thanks once again to Sommeliers Australia for hosting such an incredible event, and to De Bortoli wines who sponsored my spot in the scholarship.
Months of studying and training my tasting technique, boiling down to this exam.
I passed Theory.
I passed Service…
… but I fell short on Tasting.
Tears were spilled.
How could I have failed Tasting, something I passed the first time?
But what’s done is done. Instead, I try to focus on my win, passing Theory, which I had failed the first time.
Next time, for sure.
I was kindly invited by De Bortoli, my sponsor for the Sommeliers Australia Scholarship, to attend a Champagne Veuve Fourny event.
It also happened to be on a boat.
Another Veuve, Clicquot, was also showcasing their 2008 release of their rosé Champagne, which I was fortunate enough to attend.
Attended a masterclass on Loire Valley Chenin Blanc, hosted by Franck Moreau MS. Any focus on the Loire Valley is appreciated, as it’s a huge region with such a diversity of wines to offer.
The newest (8th) edition of the World Atlas of Wine was also released, and I didn’t hesitate to order a copy.
My birthday also happened to be in this month, and my girlfriend surprised me by organising a day trip to the Hunter Valley.
The busiest month of the year for hospitality professionals.
Sadly it was made more challenging by bushfire smoke, which you may have heard about in the news.
It became really bad near the beginning of the month, but seems to have toned down for now.
Fortunately for those camping out to see the New Year’s Eve fireworks the air was clear enough.
Those outside were waiting for the final ten-second countdown.
My countdown began at 5pm, when the first guests sat down for their dinner.
By the time the night was over, we would have served just under 300 guests, most having at least seven courses. With wines to match.
Without a doubt, it was the most challenging service of 2019.
But I’m sure my colleagues and I were able to welcome our guests into the New Year on a high note.
Here’s to 2020
As one year ends, another begins.
I already have some plans made, with the most important being to pass the Advanced Sommelier Exam in 2020.
Otherwise, I’m sure Life will have other plans for me as well.
Mark Law DipWSET