How NOT to Bottle It

I am about to begin my WSET Advanced Award in Wines & Spirits. I have the thick study pack in front of me, ready to go. But – I’ve already hit a hurdle. Let it be known, from this day forth, that I am a full blown, 100% certified, tried, tested and proven Procrastinator. It pains me to have this looming task on hand, almost a year worth of grafting ahead. And it’s all made even more ridiculous by the fact that I have volunteered for this qualification when I could finally be getting stuck into watching the Dexter series. So to all diagnosed Procrastinators out there – here’s how NOT to bottle it when a daunting task is staring down on you…

Do it
I am now in my 25th vintage, and have suffered Procrastination for decades. I remember my Mother just sobbing when she found out, after walking in on me giggling through old photo albums instead of cleaning out that wardrobe for charity.  I’ve always been troubled. Since a young pup in high school deciding to alphabetically arrange my CDs instead of comprehensively summarising Pompeii and Vesuvias. Since having a 10,000 word short story assignment with months worth of notice, and crawling into the final 24 hours before due date but suddenly finding the ‘Coast’ TV series compelling and simply unmissable. Or perhaps the worst example of all – the fact I am now sitting here writing a blog instead of opening the damn WSET book and getting on with it!

For those of you who are not familiar with WSET – The Wines & Spirits Education Trust is the world’s premier source of wine education. Internationally recognised. Professionally accredited. Supported by some of wine’s greatest celebrities, like Jancis Robinson. The Advanced qualification is a gold star for those in the wine trade, and even a great advancement for your personal wine drinking enjoyment. Once done, you will have gleaned a comprehensive coverage of the wines and spirits of the world, with an increased focus on tasting technique… that’s right, there’s a taste test to look forward to.

This is exciting stuff. No one will take the Mickey Bliss at a restaurant when you’re asked to test the bottle, as now you will actually know what you’re talking about. You even get a WSET lapel pin once passing, so if that waiter challenges your notion that the wine is corked – just pop your collar and flash that hard-earned gem.

Alright then. Here we go. I’m starting Chapter One: Grape Species, Varieties and Rootstocks…but not before I pour myself a glass of red. What…? It’s research.

The first thing I have discovered is the fascinating word ‘umami’. Hands up if ANYONE knows what this is? 3 minutes ago I didn’t. I thought it was what Ross Geller from Friends called his intuition, later revealed to be the name of a kind of sushi. Food for thought. Turns out in the wine world ‘umami’ is actually to do with taste perception, not extra sensory perception. It is a savoury taste. Not sweet. Not salty. But rather like eating a few grains of MSG (yummm, banned food items).

The book has now advised me to do a ‘mushroom test’. I must eat a plain button mushroom (done) and then microwave another for 30 seconds and eat that. The procrastinator inside me says YES so I am allowed to do this.

It tastes yucky, or should I say, it tastes distinctly umami. There we go, I’ve learnt something already. Perhaps this WSET thing isn’t so tricky after all.

exactly 12 minutes later…

[sniggering can be heard] “this heading says ‘one year old wood’!”

another 51 seconds after the first incursion…

[pronounced giggles] “And this next one says ‘permanent wood’!!”

Yes, I am easily distracted. Unshakably so. And yes, I am a Procrastinator, it is in my very marrow, but by the end of the first chapter, I think I have the facts stored safely away. I’ve also rekindled my fondness of brainstor- I mean mind-gushing. Mental map. Thought tsunami?

The main thing is I have begun my quest to achieve an Advanced Level 3 Award in Wines & Spirits. I will soon be another vinous know-it-all, pruning my own stardom, one juicy review at a time! Just like Jancis! Making my mark like Matthew Jukes! Donning my wine-anorak! Don’t know these people? Then looks like you’re reading the wrong sort of blog.

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