Performance Anxiety

Hello, Guildies, I hope you all have had a great day. 

Although this topic has been discovered in past discussions, linked here: https://www.guildsomm.com/4cb697f52c/discussion_forums/f/general-discussion/11927/performance-anxiety, let's give an old topic new life. 

How do you recommend decreasing performance anxiety while blind tasting? 

Thanks in advance, 

Jennifer 

  • Great question!  These are my thoughts in no particular order:

    Do the best you can to acquire and taste classic of examples of testable varieties and enjoy them unblind to develop a taste memory.  

    Develop a theoretical understanding of what a classic example of a wine "should" taste like.  The Deductive Tasting Seminar is useful for this. 

    During blind rounds with my tasting group, we pour four wines and we blind them in 18 minutes vs the 30 allotted for the Certified exam.  This trains people not to second guess themselves and go with their instincts.  30 minutes for 4 wines sounds like a lot but once you're in the game, it goes by in a flash.  

    Trust your instincts.  I can't count how many times my colleagues and I have said that the revealed variety in a blind wine was our first guess only to change it later.

    Blind tasting takes practice.  It's a muscle.  Use it or lose it.

    Good luck!

  • As a former theatre student I keep in mind 2 things that my professors told me:

    "The people watching want you to succeed"

    "KISS: Keep it simple, stupid."

    Trust your instincts. The MSs are not trying to trip you up. The wines are classic examples of those varietals. Keep practicing and it will come to you. Some people are really good at discovering structure, some fruit and some secondary attributes. Hone your strength and work on the areas you are weakest.

    The link below is without a doubt the best explanation of blind tasting out there. It helped me a lot. Check it out.

    https://www.guildsomm.com/research/expert_guides/b/expanded_guides/posts/tasting

    You'll be fine. :-)

  • I like the others’ comments, which feed into my first tenet: confidence. The more you know and the more tasting experience you have, the more often you’ll be right, and the less anxiety you’ll feel. My second tenet? Humility. No matter your experience, you’ll still get things wrong, but if you’re going through the whole process you can hopefully at least learn something from it.  It sort of reminds me of the Serenity Prayer, even though I’m not the least bit religious: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. The attitude expressed in it is the perfect expression of willingness to work through difficulty, and acceptance that not one of us (perhaps excepting Mr. Dame himself) is perfect.  And then, a certain amount of confidence comes from the knowledge that inevitably, you will sometimes be wrong.

    With that said, know the grid and know varietal profiles to focus on the confidence side!

  • There's a wealth of good thought in the thread that you linked. To mention a couple of tactics that I found helpful while preparing:

    1) Every time you sit down to taste, set your "mise" up the same way. For me, it was always spit bucket on the left, water on the right, timer between glasses 4 and 5, wines in line with whites on the left and reds on the right (yes, this is usually how the glasses are set, especially for exams, but sometimes in competition you'd get whites in the front and reds in the back). The idea is that if you set yourself up the same way every time, you create a sense of the familiar and controllable in an environment that feels fraught with things you can't control.

    2) Make a point to taste in front of people who intimidate you as much as possible. You will need one or two tasting groups to work with consistently to hone your tasting, but do your best to get time with masters, advanced sommeliers, or even just wine directors in your community that you respect. The more you can put yourself in the situation you will face in the exam, the more comfortable you will get with it, and it should decrease your anxiety (it's basically aversion therapy - the more you put yourself in the situation that scares you, the less scared you will become each time). And compete as much as possible! It's an excellent way to test yourself in a high-stress situation where the stakes feel high but the results don't actually matter (and if you win something, bonus!).

    3) Keep in mind while you're tasting that it does not matter what the wine is. Trying to figure out what the wine is as you're tasting can cause you to start chasing yourself in circles, making things up, missing things. Let yourself off the hook. Your job is to observe the wine, translate what you observe onto the page, and then look back at what you wrote down and come to the best conclusion based off of your note. And the best way to observe objectively is to stop trying to figure the wine out as you go.

    Get yourself a good tasting group - one that is consistent, and commits to only bringing classic examples of testable varieties, and has good, constructive dialogue about why the wines you taste are what they are. Too many groups just bring wine, do a double-blind tasting, reveal, and then go their separate ways without discussing much of anything. And keep in mind that your tasting will only ever be as good as your understanding of theory.