A few years back, I was listening to an interview with the Street Etiquette guys. This quote stuck with me:
After studying wine the last few months, I've come to realize it's the exact same way—a language. When blind tasting, the Master Sommeliers I trained under would frequently say: "listen to what the wine has to say." I remember scoffing at that the first time I heard it. But there's a lot of truth in that statement.
During my time studying, I realized that a glass of wine is the end result of hundreds of choices made by real people (even some long gone). It's living history. While growing the grapes, these people asked themselves things like: which grapes do we plant, which part of this land will grow the best grapes, should we harvest now or try to get a few more days of ripening but risk a rain ruining the harvest? After the harvest they asked things like: how long should we ferment these grapes, should we blend this new wine with other wine, should we label this as being one of our best wines or can we do better?
I also realized that someone who has chosen to study wine fundamentally tastes the same thing in the glass as someone who hasn't. The former just thinks about what they're experiencing differently. And sometimes this thinking can help them notice certain nuances or choices that have been made in the wine. It's similar to how a conductor of an orchestra hears the same thing as the general public, but can somehow notice when one of the trumpets is playing particularly well amongst the sea of other musicians.
Another big learning has been the humility of the sommelier position. The sommelier trains to learn as much as they possibly can about the world of wine to be able to deliver the best wine experience to the guest. The sommelier's goal is not to be showy about their own knowledge, but to provide just enough information to make the guest feel comfortable and well-taken care of. The customer is always right, so if they ask for a bottle of 2010 DRC with an ice cube in each glass, it's the somm's job to provide that (as painful as it might be for him or her).
I'm happy to share that after 3 days of testing with the Court of Master Sommeliers last week, they've chosen to pass me on both Level 1 (intro) and Level 2 (certified). I was overwhelmed hearing my name getting called at the results reception. It felt so good to have learned something brand new. We all need to do more of it. Especially things outside of our own professions. The world gets more interesting when we have more accountants who program, lawyers who play banjo, bus drivers who paint, or techies who can navigate a wine list.