Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Nurse the Hate: Italian Wine Scholar Update

I have been taking Unit 2 of the Italian Wine Scholar course via “distance learning”. That essentially means the good people at Italian Wine Scholar sent me a very detailed book and an access code to their website, so I can plod through the material on my own. This is not the best way for me to learn as I am completely in the void. I’m a guy sitting at his dining room table trying to remember the first DOCG in Puglia (which is Primitivo di Manduria Dolce Natural by the way, an area that specializes in making fortified sweet wines out of primitivo, which is so unfashionable right now it’s like trying to sell stone washed Supertramp jean jackets). The course is primarily built on memorizing names of DOCs, DOCGs, grapes, rivers and mountains. As you might have guessed, everything is in Italian, so my memorization tends to remember something like the DOC “Est!  Est!!  Est!!! di Montefiascone” as “that fucked up name with the increasing exclamation points in front of the unpronounceable name”. This is not exactly ideal if you want to pass yourself off as some kind of expert in Italian Wine.

The reason I am doing this is to try and patch a sizeable hole in my wine knowledge. I managed to slip through the WSET Diploma Exam (which is no fucking joke let me tell you) by getting lucky in not being asked about anything in Italy except amarone, which I somehow knew about. If I had received a question like “discuss Campagna wine grapes in regard to winemaking styles” I would have had to calmly stand up from the exam table and throw myself through the window. It would have been more honorable than the shame of writing something like “wine grapes of Campagna are very unique and are usually grown in Campagna to make unique wines to Campagna.”. Those Brits grading that exam would have undoubtedly written “what the fuck is that mate?”. They can be quite cruel. Trust me. Nobody wants to be judged by a pissed off Brit.

I don’t have a choice though.  I have decided that I am going to become a Master of Wine or die trying. The United States has had 39 ever. I am going to be #40. Well, unless someone else gets there first, in which case I will be #41. As you can guess, you need to be able to wax on in greater detail about anything wine related beyond “Campagna grapes come from Campagna to make Campagna wines”. I need to learn this stuff. The problem is, I can’t make it sink in as fast as I’d like...  I think all these rock and roll shows and years of self abuse have finally caught up to me.  The bill has come due and I’m searching for cash in empty pockets.

Let’s be honest. Trying to learn about Italy and their wine culture is probably best done by going to Italy. My gut tells me that more will sink in if I see what Basilicata looks like as opposed to trying to remember difficult to pronounce Italian words sitting at a dining room table while being hassled by two basset hounds for attention.  It’s amazing how many times I cannot answer the flash card “What was Puglia’s first DOC?” no matter how many times I see it.  I am somewhat confident that I cannot get the lapel pin or whatever the fuck I get for passing this exam by answering “Oh, that sweet ass red wine that nobody drinks…  Umm…  You know…  That one…”.  I just don’t think they will let me slide with that, but I should probably investigate online just to make sure. 

The real sticky wicket on this thing is I am “distance learning”, which translates to “not knowing if I am absorbing the material as fast as I need to be” or “am I woefully unprepared to take the exam?”.  At least with the WSET Diploma I went to San Francisco classes where I would notice the entire table knew about Brunello production while I had a very flimsy grasp.  By the way, I can’t tell you how many times I saw glances exchanged when I looked blankly at some basic fact I was clueless on.  I know, with great certainty, that a large number of people in that class, all in the wine industry, must have called each other when they learned I passed and they didn’t and said “Did you hear that jackoff from the shitty band passed?”.  That makes me smile. 

Perhaps that’s what I am missing, a perceived foe.  I tend to perform better when I am trying to outlast my detractors or engaged in a brutal struggle only I know I am embroiled in.  This is, of course, a sign of potential mental illness but I will just ignore that and proceed forward.  I will continue to drill myself over and over until I can lodge these obscure facts into my head and hope they stick in there at least until I pass the exam.  The reward?  Another Italian wine unit of obscure unpronounceable villages, rivers and grapes.  Good Lord.


At March 5, 2019 at 5:20:00 PM EST , Blogger Bobdontgiveaf#ck said...

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