In need of a goal, a direction, I decided a few months ago to pursue certification as a Sommelier.  I applied and made a handsome deposit to the International Sommelier Guild and began attending classes hosted at the Art Institute of Illinois Culinary Institute in Chicago on February 1, 2010.  Six weeks later, I have passed the first exam and started right in to the second portion in the series of three classes.  The first week was enlightening and simple due to the excitement I held.  Weeks later I find myself a bit overwhelmed and mixing up the nose of Merlot and Syrah…

The first class was four consecutive weeks, meeting once a week for 6.5 hours at a time.  I  dart up to Chicago once a week and just sip on an extra cup of joe the following work day.  Topics of the first four weeks included the basics of the history of wine, viticulture (what happens in the vineyard), viticulture (the making of the wine), how to “taste” wine, food and wine pairing essentials, and a bit on twenty or so of the better-known varietals.  The second class will last six weeks.  We will study the major wine regions in depth, discuss wine laws across the world, and hit all of the previously studied topics more in depth.

This is my idea of class

A major part of this curriculum is the art of tasting wine.  HELLO!  It’s challenging… To see someone taste a wine, unbeknown-st to the grape, region, or anything… and to see them deduce all of this is: WOW.  I have learned that there is not a RIGHT answer… exactly… There are, however, correct categories of aromas and tastes.  If I smell raspberries and you smell strawberries, neither of us is more correct than the other, really.  If I smell sweet jam and you smell leather jacket, then one of us is off.  There are general categories of characteristics that help us to conclude whether a wine is old or young, has spent time in oak or not, was made in the new world or the old world.  Plus some other stuff.  Beginning with these basics, however, tasting is a bit less daunting than I previously believed.

This evening I decided to spend some time practicing some blind tasting outside of class.  Lucky for me, I have a wine-loving father with wine-friendly budget.  Tasting four red wines with no preconceived notions (I did know that one was Garnacha and one was Zinfandel though) was tough.  I did not guess any of them correctly 100% but was able to draw some logical conclusions about origin.  The evening of tasting led me to my couch with a class of left-over Zin & the need to review my Zin notes!

I am excited to share my Sommelier-seeking experience with you and to see where it takes me!  Whether I end up in this field for a career or not, I am loving the journey and hope that you can learn a thing or two also!

Wine not?