Grand Tasting – Palais du Louvre
The Grand Tasting turned out to be both a success and a complete disaster. Success in the sense that we executed all of the tastings and no one in the tasting room had any wine spilled on them or any trays dropped in their lap. To the room of thirty plus wine experts, we must have seemed flawless in our work after executing the tasting hour after hour.
However, it was behind closed doors that seemed to really cause a nightmare and create the ultimate challenge of working with one another under pressure. Every twenty minutes ten trays with ten glasses of wine on each would need to be sent into the tasting room. There was a team leader on every tasting and if they did not lead the others well, it seemed to all fall apart at the seams. It turned into a battle of the Asian students against the French. I stayed out of the crossfire pretty much, so to speak, however the tension in the room was palpable.
“You really want me to just take the fucking glasses in there now?!” Jen, a feisty little bombshell from Korea, screamed at Sandrine, one of the French girls with a tray about to slip from her hands.
“Yes, yes I do. I am leading this tasting!! Do it.” Sandrine yelled back. I was worried at this point that the tasters could hear this nonsense backstage. All of the rest of us just kept our heads down and continued pouring wine into glasses. What was astounding to me was that our professor just let everyone rip each other’s heads off screaming, and stayed calm and focused and continued to give direction. It seemed completely as if he had expected this behavior. My jaw dropped to the floor when Laurent asked Kimi, one of the girls from China, if she was stupid when he felt she was pouring too much wine into the glasses. He glared at her like he was going to pull out a knife. I could not believe the way we were treating each other, and the proverbial we, as I had nothing to do with it, just witnessed. It was twelve hours of high tension, and there was no greater feeling when we had sent out the last ten trays of wine.
Professor Ramage was on edge and expected perfection from all of us. His name was behind this event to all of the serious wine professionals of France. He would shake his head in disgust if someone messed up. The stress was discerning.
Twelve hours later …
Finally, it was over. There were also a few really nice bottles of wine left, to which our professor poured us each a small glass. Everyone raised their glasses, however some people were still carrying around some animosity and the grins lining their faces were forced. I could only imagine how dinner that evening at Le Petit Sommelier would go, not to mention the upcoming Bordeaux trip…