750 ml. Aged for 18 months in small oak barrels with aromas of red plum, black cherry, and soft spice. I just described the Franciscan Estate Napa Valley Merlot 2012. I need to know how this wine tastes and smells compared to the other thousands of wines that this world has to offer. I need to know how bold the tannins are, the texture of the wine against the tongue, what foods I should pair it with, the grape used, the history of the region it is from, and many other factoids in order to sell this bottle, among many others, to thirsty guests whose bank account can probably pay for my college loans. I thought I was done with studying and schools when I graduated college, but here I am again learning about the different varieties of wine. It’s a daunting task, one where the tests are one of the hardest exams around. There are a total of 230 Master Sommeliers in the world sine the first exam was administered. Fortunately, I am not testing to become a Master Sommelier, rather a Level I then eventually a Level II Sommelier. However the Level II exam has a pass rate of 60% which isn’t too bad compared to some of the exams I had to take when I was in college (looking at you Adv. Topics in Neuroscience).
If someone had told me that I would be studying to not only become a hotelier but also a sommelier, I would have slapped them in the face. I was a budding anthropologist, ready to explore the jungles of Papua New Guinea interviewing a cannibalistic tribe, wooing my beautiful female guide under the tropical moon. Then I found my passion in food and beverage, providing memorable experiences to my guests. Lo and behold, I am a hotel leader in training learning about the various wines that this world has to offer. I mean I can still woo some beautiful lady, just instead of wooing her under a blanket of stars in a tropical heat, it’s going to be a lightly dimmed bar with drinks being poured by gentlemen in black tail jackets with a jazz pianist playing in the background. So not too bad of a trade off. However, in order to get to that point of wooing I need to learn about wine. I can do the memorization easy, but the blind taste testing? Yeah I’m going to need to work on that. My palate as of now consists of dark beer, strong gin, and cheap tacos so how am I supposed to taste the “oaky flavor with a slight lavender aftertaste” in any of the wines I drink? I guess I just need to keep drinking wine. Sommeliers in training have 20 minutes to describe 4 or 5 red and white wines and I’m not talking about, “Oh that’s a red wine!” and go on to the next one. No this involves describing its palate, what region its from, the aromas, the subtle tastes, and if I get one thing wrong in my description then that’s it. Try again next year. I’m psyched.
So here I am now, trying to figure out the black cherry taste from this merlot and what region it comes from, its history, and what other wines pair nicely with it. Honestly, the only thing that I’m concerned about is what if the world ends? I’m pretty damn sure my wine knowledge is not a necessary skill that’ll help my fellow survivors. I guess I could be a butler to some despotic tyrant who decides to be the Lord King of Euless. So not too bad of a life.