I started listening to a podcast on wine (of course), one that is new to me. The subject dealt with wine credentials. Do we really need to go through the process of WSET credentials or through the Court of Master Sommelier levels to establish ourselves as wine professionals? It was an interesting topic and I agreed with the presenter who had not gone that route. She had worked in a bar at a high-end hotel for many years where she learned the ins and outs of the wine world. She now works for The Wine Enthusiast, without all the creds. Basically like myself, she’s street smart. I believe I have developed a deep knowledge of wine simply by working in the wine department for as long as I have, dealing with many different customers, and tasting thousands of wines while going back and forth with various sales reps. My job allows me to travel to wine tastings and events nearby. Yes, I took the first level of Somm school (for lack of a better way to put it.) It was an easy level and I passed with flying colors. I received a pin and certificate but realized that it wasn’t necessary to pursue that further. It was an interesting experience and I was able to be involved in a few classes in Seattle after that. It all added to my knowledge and experience. However, like the lady on the podcast, I attribute my knowledge of wine to my job. I still flirt with going the WSET route, but I don’t think it’s necessary.
In that same podcast, before asking questions about wine courses and credentials, she would ask the person what their wine of choice was at the time. If I could have put money down on their answers, I would have walked away with some cash. I knew they were going to say, Riesling, sparkling wine, or Rose’. Bingo! The three people on this podcast picked one of those wines. For some reason, one I can’t wrap my mind around is why, in the wine world, there is this thing about liking certain wines. In particular, Riesling and sparkling wine. I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with Riesling or Sparkling wine, of course, there isn’t. What is wrong is when you feel you have to say those are your favorites so that you fit into a specific wine culture. You’re not a hipster wine person if you don’t like petrol-driven, high-acid Rieslings or obscure sparkling wines from the Jura. Rose’ is awesome, I will admit that and I do like Riesling from time to time. As far as sparkling wine, my wife and I enjoy it on a regular basis. Our favorite is from South Africa. However, if someone were to ask me what my jam is in wine, I would have to go with Zinfandel, red blends, Bordeaux and wines from southern France, to name a few. None of these answers would get me into the wine geek Hall of Fame (except for maybe Bordeaux). I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat in my office tasting wines presented to me by a sales rep that fall into the category of hipster wines. Some are good of course, but most of them would be a tough sell in my department.
Occasionally I watch a wine program on YouTube presented by Master Of Wine Konstantin Baum. It’s an interesting show which usually involves blind tastings and advice on wine purchasing. In one of his episodes featuring a blind tasting of wines with big scores from James Suckling, he made a most interesting comment that I won’t soon forget. Some wine critics like to inflate scores to get recognition from wineries, which in turn gets them on the map. Suckling is famous for putting out inflated scores (I’m sure he would disagree). As a result, you see labels on wines with his name advertising his big score (90 points James Suckling). As a result, James Suckling becomes a household name. There is something very wrong about that, don’t you agree? As most of you know, I’m not a score guy. I use a grading system that works just fine for me. I am also very honest in my reviews, at least that is my goal. It may not get me name recognition, but I can go to bed at night knowing I helped someone avoid buying a substandard wine or led them to a great value.
Stan The Wine Man