Taking time to reflect is an important part of any development, both personal and professional. Actually having the time to do it, however, is a very different matter! After 2.5 years of almost constant studying, I’ve finally finished the last of my exams with the WSET. Between that, Christmas, New Years and taking care of my young family, I’ve barely had the chance to write over the last few months. Last week I sat down to the WSET Unit 3 exam, a 5 hour marathon of blind tasting and essay-based theory questions. Whilst I won’t know for certain how I’ve done until early April (the WSET take around 3 months to mark these papers), I have a reason to be confident as I was able to answer everything in some detail and I had a strong blind tasting.
So the question is; what next? I’ve written about the value of wine education a few times, and now I suddenly find myself without a structured course to work through. I’m not yet financially capable of starting the MW course, and likely not quite ready yet either, and there’s nothing beyond the WSET Diploma in terms of official qualifications that will help me. Which is quite exciting in itself, because it means the next year or two is entirely down to me. On that note, I sat down over the weekend with a bit of time to myself for the first time in months, opened a lovely bottle of wine and got thinking about what the next couple of years holds for me.
Get a job in the industry. This might sound odd considering I already work organising wine tastings in and around Barcelona, but it’s becoming increasingly apparent that I need to work a little more centrally in the industry. Currently I have to work incredibly hard and spend most of the money I make pursuing wine education, as I don’t have access to the information and opportunities that arise from working directly for a winery, retail outlet, distribution centre etc. When it comes to getting the inside scoop, tasting and travel opportunities and learning how the industry works, there’s no alternative. (Assuming you’re not fabulously wealthy. Spoiler: I’m not)
Every time I meet someone who’s a Master of Wine or is currently studying towards it, I ask for 5-10 minutes of their time to ask their advice, both on attempting the exams and the industry generally. The most common piece of advice I receive is exactly this; get a job within the industry. Add this to the fact that a large chunk of my work is becoming increasingly less wine focused (walking tours) and it’s something I now need to put in motion. There’s no great rush and fear not, I won’t stop organising tastings as a result!
Wine Science. The thing that most people seem to struggle with the most in wine, is the science of it. Perhaps it diminishes the romanticism of wine in their eyes, but if you want to understand why your wine tastes the way that it does, a basic understanding of wine science is essential. I intend to take my own understanding to another level, with a good amount of time studying and importantly, talking to wine-makers pointedly about it. Why add SO2 at this stage and not earlier/later? Why this sort of barrel and toasting? What would the flavour impact be if you harvested a week earlier? Sorry wine-makers; there’s a lot of very annoying questions coming your way!
Read broadly. This is a no-brainer really. I love reading and learning about wine, and now my exams are over I can spend a lot more time digging into interesting corners or going off in a completely different direction on a whim. I’ve already made a sizable order for some books I’ve been dying to read but couldn’t fit into my study plans.
Write, write, write. Considering how little I’ve written here over the last couple of months, it’d be easy to believe I don’t enjoy writing but it’s actually one of my greatest pleasures. Word Press reliably informs me that my content is nigh-on unreadable, and that only 30 or so people visit my site daily but I really don’t mind. In fact, I want to write a lot more than I have been, including more in-depth wine reviews, thoughts on certain parts of the industry and just general ramblings as they come. Writing helps me process information and as someone who reads incessantly, it’s also a personal pleasure to be able to create content of some sort. Hopefully it will be of use to someone, somewhere!
Taste. A lot of people don’t believe me when I tell them I’ve been working with/learning about wine for less than three years, because I went from knowing absolutely nothing to being reasonably knowledgeable in a short space of time. A lot of that is down to investing a lot of time and money into tasting wine. Every wine I taste, I dig into. I find out about the winery, their other products, what makes them different. Why did this wine taste the way that it did? If it’s a lovely wine and not outrageously priced, I’ll try to fit it into a tasting so that other people can share the experience first-hand. I have to keep working at tasting as broadly as possible, something that should be enhanced now that I’ve been promoted to Judge with the IWC. (Hurrah!)
Personal health and well-being. Lastly, there’s the one I tend to forget about; being a little nicer to myself. The last couple of years have been a lot of work and at times I’ve forgotten to cut myself enough slack – if you’re working 25-28 nights a month, studying full time, taking care of a newborn and trying to have a semblance of a life on top of it, it’ll catch up with you. I have no exam pressure now and whilst I tend to jump head first into things I’m passionate about, I do also need to take some time away from it all. My fiance certainly does! A little less waking up with my face attached to the World Atlas of Wine, and a little more walking around this beautiful city I live in. That’ll work for me.
That’s it. Some general guidelines to guide me through the coming year, with only one or two sizeable changes. I’ll still be available to organise private tastings and Maestrazgo Wine Club events, just hopefully with a little less of what I’ve been told is ‘La cara de papa’. Otherwise known as ‘The father’s face’ which is a lovely Spanish way of saying ‘You look tired’! Stay tuned for more ramblings, tastings and events. Happy 2018, everyone.