Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Nurse the Hate: Hate WSET Diploma

The WSET Diploma thing has gotten completely out of control.  I am knee deep in wine.  There are cases everywhere.  If you want a Bierzo or a Minervois, I’m your guy.  I am right in the middle of the WSET Diploma “still wines” unit.  What this means to any normal person is I am studying “wine”.  I am not sure why the WSET people break up the six units the way that they do.  It breaks down into six different pass/fail tests.  The science of wine, spirits, business of wine/spirits, fortified wines, sparkling and then still wines.  The still wines unit is massive.  By comparison, when tested for fortifieds, one has to learn essentially about port/sherry/madeira.  I already failed that exam once in my well documented flame out in San Francisco which is still spoken about in hushed whispers in the WSET London headquarters.  That exam covered maybe about 10% of the amount of material that this still wines exam will focus on.  This gives me great concern.

It is absolutely overwhelming the amount of potential material in which can be covered.   There are people that literally spend a lifetime trying to grasp Burgundy.  I spent a week on it and can’t afford the best examples of the wines.  That’s OK.  Neither can you, unless of course you are one of those Kardashian gals or a hedge fund manager reading this.  If so, buy a decent vintage Romanee Conti and pour me just a taste, would you?  At this point I have the same chance of having top quality Burgundy as I do a unicorn steak.  Let me put it into perspective.  There could be an exam given just on Burgundy and I would at this point have NO CHANCE at passing it.  That’s even leaving out the rest of the planet.  I continue to shove information into my skull, but my fear is that I may have maxed out my memory gigs.  There’s just no more storage space left.  If I remember stats on Pommard, it only means I forget the grand cru vineyards of Chablis.

The biggest issue at this point is my inability to blend into the English education system.  This is a London based program.  One of the reasons I did well in college is I was able to grasp complicated concepts and apply just enough memorized facts to back up my assertions.  The English system is not so much about function as it is form.  These fucking guys know one way to bake a cake, and dammit, you better stick to their recipe.  This is not my style.  I reflexively answer questions in an American way of speaking and my word choices get clipped all the time.  For example, a wine is not “dark ruby”.  It is “deep ruby”.  Even if you look at it and say “I would call that dark because it is sort of flat in color whereas deep suggests layers and layers on top of each other”, you’d better say “deep”.  Deep ruby= Good.  Dark ruby= Bad.  If you listen closely enough sometimes you can hear Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” playing when looking at my corrected tasting notes. 

Sometimes I taste a wine and I think “You know what this tastes like?  This tastes like if you were sitting outside with a girl in the park that was demurely making daisy chains on a warm Spring day, and then you lean your head onto her lap and she smiles at you.”  I would like to point out that is the wrong answer (though an accurate description of a Falanghina I recently had).  The right answer is something like “pale gold, medium plus nose of citrus (lemon, lime zest, tangerine), wet stones, marble, fresh cut oregano, basil with a medium plus palate that is dry, medium plus acid, medium body, medium alcohol with citrus (lemon, lime, yellow grapefruit zest), chamomile, oregano, and secondary notes of stream pebbles, kiwi skin, and nutmeg on the medium plus finish.”  Yet, even then I generally get destroyed because I didn’t bracket something correctly or place it in a wrong order.  This is completely my fault however as I cannot be trusted to read the course outline much as I cannot be trusted to read instructions for pretty much anything.  They do provide the dry expectations in a lengthy "guide".  I just can't be bothered to read it and instead I hope I pick it up along the way.  This method has worked for me so far in life, but now I've hit a bit of a stumble.   

The people that grade my work see me as a sloppy American asshole (which I am).  I see them as uptight Brits (which they probably are but don’t know it).  It is a cultural disconnect.  It is with this in mind that I will be launching a mission to waltz into the WSET HQ and see what’s going on over there.  I need to see the leather paneled walls where Mr. Livingston has graded my papers with a punishing Draconian mindset.  I want to see the high backed leather chairs where Roger and his mates enjoy an after work sherry and denigrate my tasting notes.  Sure, it might be subjective to call a German spatburgunder “the very essence of failure and disappointment expressed as a beverage”, but I will stand by that tasting note goddammit!  Maybe Roger and I need to knock back a couple of pints at the pub and talk about old Benny Hill episodes, or perhaps recite Monty Python dialogue back and forth to build a bond.  I mean, that’s what one does in the UK, isn’t it?  Or is that all out the window with this Brexit shit? 

I need to get this WSET Diploma thing back under control.


At March 14, 2017 at 3:23:00 PM EDT , Blogger AZ said...

Do you have more wine degrees than your brother has educational?

At March 18, 2017 at 2:16:00 AM EDT , Blogger Greg Miller said...

I don't think either of us technically has accomplished anything


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