“Whether you think you can or think you can’t. You’re right.” – Henry Ford
“Madame Bender, Mr. Porter will pour you the first wine. This is the same wine that all of your other classmates have been and will be poured. The label is covered with a linen napkin as we would like you to be able to tell us what this wine is. Please analyze this wine in front of us, telling us all of your observations and conclusions. Please explain how you are coming to those conclusions. Please lead us through tasting this wine. And remember, you are an expert now. Don’t second guess yourself, we believe in your abilities. The judges may ask you questions as well, please remember this is a timed tasting and you do not have time on your side to answer- answer quickly, perhaps your first impulse. Your intuition. Mr. Porter, please proceed.”
I was shaking, I felt sweat dripping down my spine. What had I gotten myself into? I could not believe this day had finally come.
The wine splashed into my glass. It was golden yellow with straw like hues. My first thought was … Chardonnay.
I stood up straight as I slowly allowed the glass to approach my face. Before I swirled the wine in my glass, I wanted the first aroma to have zero aeration. I saw Ramage write on his sheet of paper. He must have given me a point for that. Most forget how important it is to smell it before the classic sommelier move of swirling the glass and allowing air in. I ruled out Chardonnay immediately. There were no butter notes, no oak notes. Purely fruit.
I took the wine away from my face and now swirled it in the glass. I watched it move intently. I had said nothing yet, I knew I would have to start speaking, I just wanted to gather some thoughts to myself first. I stared at the wine, not the judges, wine was calming me on all fronts at that moment. I took it up to my nose again … this time I was able to identify which fruits. The smell of apricots was overwhelming, also fresh juicy peaches – like a basket full from picking them up off the grass in a countryside landscape in France. There was also a minerality – a chalky mineral note coming through. I swirled it once more … This time I got an overwhelming whiff of honey. Acacia honey, there was also a crispness coming through. A green apple essence. I secretly thought to myself…Chenin Blanc. I didn’t want to call it yet, and that was also the wine I called as number one in the 1-5 lineup earlier that day. Shoot would they really pour two Chenin Blancs in the final test? Maybe the one from earlier had been a Viognier, or maybe this wasn’t Chenin, or maybe they did this to trick us?
I remembered what the woman had said when she told me not to second guess myself. I also knew it had been at least two minutes and I had yet to say a word out of my mouth. I needed to bite the bullet and change that immediately.
“Upon sight, this wine is golden yellow in color, I initially would have pegged it a Chardonnay due to its golden and potential oak influence in the satiney straw shade, but upon my very first smell, sans aeration I picked up no oak. I have also ruled out it being a Chablis which is typically Chardonnay un-oaked due to the specific fruit aromas that came through after aeration.” Two of the judges nodded as if in agreement and wrote something on their paper.
I then went on to say …