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- The challenge of wine tasting, from casual observer to Master Sommelier
Thu, Feb 20, 2014 09:52 PM
If you like wine, you might like the movie Somm. I recently
enjoyed watching the story about a few guys preparing for the
Master Sommelier test, arguably one of the hardest tests to pass.
Only slightly more than 200 people worldwide have reached the level
of wine expertise necessary to carry this title, issued by the
Court of Master Sommeliers.
To become a Master Sommelier, one has to pass four levels of
The first level requires more than just basic knowledge of wine
and wine service. It requires familiarity with specific
geographical origins of wines, typical flavor characteristics of
most grapes used in wine making as well as the flaws, and enough
restaurant experience to be proficient in general wine etiquette as
well as matching wine with food.
Once you've passed the first level, you can go for level two,
which (if passed) comes with the title Certified Sommelier. This
level test is much more rigorous and includes a practical part.
Passing level three with a good enough score is the requirement to
be invited to the ultimate test: the Master Sommelier exam, by
For most of us wine lovers it takes way too much professional
commitment to even get started, but it makes for a good movie to
watch. The guys go through all the wine tasting rituals.
There is another organization certifying wine expertise: The
Society of Wine Educators. Here the basic test is more knowledge
based and less practical. The test again requires extensive
knowledge of grapes, their typical flavor profile, their origin
with geographical, even geological situations, all aspects of wine
making from vineyard locations to winery practices. One of the
hardest parts is identifying minute flaws in wine, which most
people do not even notice. Such flawed bottles are often consumed,
but usually only once as most people blame that bad bottle on bad
wine and buy a different wine next time, explaining why wineries
have such a big interest in educating people about wine.
Passing the first level from this organization makes you a
Certified Specialist of Wine, which entitles you to add a 'CSW' to
your business card. Level two again is for the really dedicated
wine professional, an even harder and more detailed test including
blind tastings. There is no study guide, just practice your wine
tasting and try to pass!
Even if you are not poised for a wine exam, tasting wine is a lot
of fun. It doesn't necessarily have to be what we call a "blind
tasting" where the taster does not know which wine is poured and
tries to guess the wine, from grape and region to specific wineries
Even when knowing which wine is in the glass, it can be
challenging to come up with good descriptions and assessments, but
it's always fun especially in a group trying different wines
together and discussing the flavors. And each person will probably
come up with different associations, which can lead to good-humored
and cheerful arguments with plenty of fun.