Many of you are prepping for the upcoming MS Exam in February. This can be one of the most exciting and challenging times in your life. Here are a few things that may help you out. May seem a bit existential, but sometimes that is needed to balance out the analytical.
1. Wine is not learned in a four minute and ten second vacuum. Meaning- there is only so much you can learn about wine blind tasting in the 25-minute format. Many, if not all of you, are going to be doing many practice tastings over the next 30 days before the exam. That is great to utilize your skills and hone them a bit. But, be sure to drink and learn at the same time. There is only so much that your brain will learn while you do a timed tasting. Your brain is focusing on utilizing the knowledge at that time, not so focused on taking in new information. Take classic wines (Multiple of the same kind) and do the grid out loud while knowing the actual wine. Your brain will take in so much more information and you can focus on those markers that help you differentiate wines you may have a hard time with.
2. If you have time on the clock at the end of your tasting, think twice before changing your conclusions. Trust your palate. Before picking up glass that you may want to change, think about the markers that you described at what that wine should be. Don’t just change a wine because you don’t trust yourself – you have made in this far trusting your skills and greatness.
3. Having Trouble Memorizing Something? The great thing about being a sommelier is that most of what we do has a practical application. If you can try to find labels that you can hold and touch with the information you are having a tough time remembering. Reach out to people that work for agencies, boards, marketing councils, etc…and ask them questions to help. If it is something that you may have on your list, focus on selling it many times. Even if you don’t sell it, it has etched itself into your mind by doing. We are doers, not just readers.
4. Lastly – Focus on your talent. This is what you do everyday. When your main goal is becoming a great sommelier, the exams will fall into place. Even if it is not at this very moment-it will happen eventually, and you become an even better sommelier.
I wish everyone the very best of luck in the upcoming month. Regardless of the outcome, this is one of the most difficult tasks that you put yourself into, and it will help you grow and continue on the path of excellence.
Excellent advice from Brian...I would add from experience that studying so close to an exam rarely does any good. Candidates have progressed to the Masters Exam by what they already know....and are in elite company. Why stress out over cramming in new information? Rare is the person who performs at their best when they are full of stress hormones. Leave your heavy books at home.
Candidates are invited to sit the exam, based on their performance at the lower levels. Remember that. Relax and savor the experience. Breathe deeply and remember that no one knows everything, and that we work in an industry where life-long learning is expected. The diploma is the beginning, not the end. Good luck to everyone sitting the exam.
Thanks Brian, as always, for your mentorship, concern, and valuable/timely advice. Although I won't be sitting for awhile, I'll take your words to heart NOW and let them help to guide me further along in my journey. Best of luck to all of you sitting in February. It's a great challenge and a great honor.
Great advice Brian. Keep in mind that you need to believe in yourself that you are describing the wines correctly. Many people are great tasters, they just don't believe that they are. If you don't trust your palate, you can't be a great taster. It can be a big leap, but well worth it!
Great blog. I also want to point out the importance of being good to yourself. Anyone invited to sit for Masters deserves to be in that room. It is crucial to your success that you believe that you belong there too. Take your time, listen to the questions, enjoy the wines, serve wines you love and share your knowledge with us Masters with pride. Good Luck to everyone.
Thanks Brian for your excellent tips! If I might also chime in and say that too many of you practice "spitting wine". For practice that's fine, but you need to drink the wine too! I believe that's the best way to understand what a wine is all about. Also, you've spent so much time addressing the mind, don't forget to pay attention to the body. Get a lot of rest, eat right and don't play too much...meditation also can do wonders. Good luck to you all!