Monday, September 12, 2016

Nurse the Hate: The Return of the WSET Fortified WIne Exam

As I suspected, I failed the fortified wine test as part of my impossible WSET Diploma quest.  I learned of this a few weeks ago, but frankly it was just a confirmation of what in my heart I already knew.  I had flamed out during the test in such a spectacular fashion that it may even now be discussed in hushed whispers deep in the bowels of the WSET headquarters.  I looked at three obvious port wines and somehow talked myself into the idea that they were three obscure southern French fortifieds.  Those wines I wrote down are so obscure, they might not even exist.  It was like looking at a hippopotamus and saying “That’s a Pegasus!”.  I can’t really explain my actions.  It was failure pure and simple.  

I now have a chance to re-take this exam in November.  This means I have to re-immerse myself in fortified wines like port, sherry and madeira.  No one in America has purchased as much madeira as I have in the last year since Ben Franklin in the late 1770s.  I have probably moved the madeira market 18% just by purchasing 6 bottles.  There is so little madeira made and sold in the United States, there are right now Portuguese industry analysts trying to figure out the reasons behind “The Great American Madeira Renaissance of 2016”.  They will be equally confused when this “emerging American market” has the bottom drop out of it when I pass this damn exam in 7 weeks and never buy another madeira.

I passed my spirits exam, which is great news.  The great news wasn’t passing the exam as much as it was not having to continue to drink massive amounts of scotch, bourbon and rum.  That whole experience led me to develop a taste for these liquors as well as provide a glimpse into a possible future where I am experiencing blackouts on a regular basis as I lurch around my community holding a highball glass.  While my classes are certainly very advanced, the folks at WSET did not teach me what is in bourbon that makes the drinker feel compelled to ask others “you know what the fuck is wrong with you?”.  Maybe it is the char of the barrels.  All I know is that there should be a chapter in that book that points out the very real possibility of receiving a “Kentucky Ass Whipping” with too many servings of malt grain spirit.  I am going to slowly back away from these spirits much as one would an angry stray dog.

I am now gathering up sherries and ports to resume a tasting regimen.  A local shopkeeper looked down in embarrassment as I came to the counter with a fino, oloroso and amontillado sherry last week.  He knew I must have failed.  I know he knew.  Why else would I be buying an oloroso sherry on a 90 degree day?  No one likes these wines.  Not even the people that make them.  I am probably the only person that has bought a sherry in that joint in the last 180 days.  Oh the shame!  Oh the humanity!  The real problem is more than my wounded pride though.  The real issue is that I suddenly can’t taste.  I have now become unable to taste key markers for wines, and I can’t explain it.  Last week I thought a Chateauneuf du Pape was a domestic pinot noir.  This is like saying a Guinness Stout was a Miller Lite.  I mistook a Washington viognier for a French chardonnay.  I am suddenly the wine equivalent of Chuck Knoblach tossing a throw to first base into a hot dog vendor.  What has happened here?

This pursuit is all about having a clear mind and being able to focus.  I am going to need to somehow learn the basics of transcendental meditation in the next few weeks to clear my head.  I don’t want to have to pack myself into yoga pants and start chanting just to be able to note that ketchup tastes differently than mustard.  I don’t know what else to do though.  The New Age music alone is worth steering clear of the entire yoga/TM/crystal power scene.  Yet, I am completely boxed in.  I will try anything.  I am wandering alone out in the wilderness, a man that was fallen from great heights to being a punchline in the heavily oaked rooms of the WSET Fortified Wine Testing Unit.  A place where men named Roger button up their vests and make dry remarks about others along the lines of “Well, that student’s test was a bit of a disaster, but it was no Miller.”  Sly smiles cross everyone’s faces as they toast each other with generous pours of sercial madeira.  As the madeira hits their palate they will chuckle quietly at Roger’s quip.  Those sons of bitches.  I will show them.  I wonder if I can use the same mantra as George Harrison?  He seemed pretty zen and shit…


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