Tag: Master Sommelier

Ms M.S.

The juxtaposition of Ms and MS is intentional, in combination they make an accurate reference to only 21 accomplished women in the world to-day. This pair of prima facie identical prefix and suffix is a nature-nurture alignment attained by the resolution and very hard work put in by each and every female individual whom have passed one of the toughest tests in international wine world: Master Sommelier. The Master Sommelier examination is a strenuous triathlon itself, involving three key disciplines in the study of wine and hospitality: theory, tasting and practical service. The lowest pass mark of all modules is 75%, and average annual pass rate fluctuates around a meagre 10%. At present there are 219 Master Sommeliers around the world, among which only 21 of them are women. Today’s post highlights the story of Lindsey Whipple, one of the four newly-minted Master Sommeliers, and the only female, whom have just passed their exams last month in Aspen, Colorado. No doubts her professional story makes the international wine world proud, yet behind all the accolades and achievements, it is the story of a girl born to half a family of Italians all passionate about food, wine and friends; and a journey through which she learns to balance between comradeship and independence, struggles and perseverance, stress and motivation.

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Lindsey had an early start with wine. With half of her family being Italians, Lindsay got used to entertaining friends and families over food and wine every Sunday. At ten or eleven, she started putting away wines in her own closet, and that’d probably be her first wine collection! At university, Lindsey entered United States’ top hospitality school University of Nevada Las Vegas, where she dabbled into the professional world of alcoholic beverages beginning with a semester on distilled spirits. Attending various tastings during university life led her to her first crush, 1985 Chateau Margaux, a sip that pointed her down the road less traveled by. A pursuit in the career field of wine and beverage brought Lindsay to a rotation of restaurant and wine portfolio management roles in Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Over the years she has worked in Las Vegas for restaurant outlets Mark’s, Cut by Wolfgang Puck, and in Los Angeles for Campanile. In 2003, she took her Introductory Sommelier, first step along the ladder that leads towards the esteemed title of Master Sommelier. Over 10 years, she took the other two progressively harder examinations on the way and finally obtained her Master Sommelier accreditation in May 2014.

“Sounds like a pharmacist.” That is Lindsey’s two cents on the role of a sommelier in a restaurant. The concept of a heart-winning sommelier has always been coined as the knowledgable wine person who humbly applies what s/he knows to find the wine that the diner seeks, without superimposing his/her personal preferences and opinion on the matter. Lindsay’s pharmacist metaphor is accurate, with a touch of Tim Burton’s sense of quirky humour. On sommelier exam techniques and tips, Lindsay credits her friends and study groups for their help and assistance, citing peer support one of the cardinal pillars that underpins and evolves the profession of sommelier. “But the pursuit is a lonely journey,” Lindsey added emphatically. She had distanced herself and stayed away from friends and families during the last stage of preparation, so to find her internal zen and calmness through isolation. Going through the examination itself is an exhilarating experience, as you are given more or less half an hour’s time to show people what you’ve got after years of preparation. Those moments overwhelm one too many brightest individuals with tsunamis of stress and anxiety. To Lindsey, the trick’s all in the mind. “It’s always about fun, walk in there and don’t be terrified, be ready to take it down and show them what you got,” she waxed lyrically, “…make it fun for the people testing you, and for yourself too.”

Master Sommelier results announcement differs from the practice at more junior levels of examinations. Candidates are individually led to different locations within the complex by the examiners and be informed separately whether they’ve made the mark. Lindsey was brought to the corner of a function room where she was told that she passed this gruelling examination. There were no overjoyed tears, no angry throw of chairs, no pants stripping (these bizarre behaviours have all allegedly happened in the past). It was pure happiness, it felt like her graduating from college once more, it was “the world is her oyster” kind of moment. Lindsey spared no tears for that life-changing moment, knowing full well that she has already shed enough tears on the way. Now a one-month-old Master Sommelier, Lindsey is busy reorganising her career and life objectives, ready and excited to embrace changes and opportunities yet to come her way. What remains unchanged is her willingness to share her passion and knowledge of wine. “I am never unapproachable”, Lindsey serenely remarked.

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Picture (above): Lindsey Whipple receiving her Master Sommelier pin after years of hard work
Picture (below): Lindsey Whipple Master Sommelier

不視盲品

Blind Tasting(盲品) 是學習葡萄酒的過程中,其中一項最引人入勝的環節。葡萄酒漫畫「神之水滴」把這項測試推至「神級」之境:俊朗的神咲雫輕晃酒杯,淺聞酒香,細嚐一小口酒液,閉目數秒後堅定地說出那款酒的年份,產區,酒莊等,魔術師般的表現令人嘆為觀止,酷。如果閣下看罷那套漫畫後決定學酒,並以學習盲品作為你的學習重心的話,那你該有心理準備你需要付出相當的努力。盲品,跟天資和運氣的關係不大,最主要的是看努力。綜觀各項與葡萄酒有關的測試:理論、侍酒實戰、盲品;盲品的難度最大,因為盲品結合了理論及實戰測試的要求:

(1) 紮實的葡萄酒學問根基 - 清晰知道各款葡萄品種的自身特質與風土特色,才能夠作出有效且詳盡的推理;
(2) 有系統的學習、滙報及分析方法 - 每天累積不斷更新的全球葡萄酒新知及資訊,進而鍛練重組各種聞香及味道以得出某款酒的來歷的能力,另一方面在得知一款酒的來歷後,能清晰地解釋它的歷史、葡萄品種特色、釀造風格、年份氣候等的能力。
(3) 具邏輯的品酒技巧,盲品經驗累積及臨場表現管理 - 盲品並不是一場瞎猜的遊戲,更不是一場魔術表演。品酒技巧來自理性推理及不斷磨練的結合。臨場表現管理適用於所有考試,大部分考生都忽略了積極管理緊張情緒的重要性。

今天主要討論何謂具邏輯的品酒技巧。近日參加了Court of Master Sommeliers Americas於三藩市舉行的試驗性品酒工作坊,由三位侍酒大師:Tim Gaiser MS、Brian Cronin MS及 Matthew Citriglia MS 主講。九小時密集式的盲品練習,試驗如何以Cause-and-effect的邏輯去教授盲品技巧。當日我共盲品了四組共24款葡萄酒,先是Double Blind 雙盲品酒,及後三組均為Single Blind單盲品酒。兩者分別在於後者選酒具主題性,例如:全為芳香型白酒、全為Cabernet家族葡萄品種等。後者的學習效益較高。

所謂cause-and-effect,其實是一項延伸練習。盲品的基本步要求我們詳盡形容杯中葡萄酒的視覺、聞香及味道,這些一律被視為effects。延伸練習,就是依據所知的葡萄酒理論及學問,勾出導致這些effects的根本原因,推論一款酒的來歷。Court of Master SommeliersDeductive Tasting Format 要求考生推理葡萄酒來自(1)新或舊世界;(2)涼爽/中等/和暖氣候;(3)什麼葡萄品種;(4)酒齡/年份;和(5)質素及相關等級(如適用)。以下舉例說明第1至第4點如何依據葡萄酒理論所學去進行盲品推理。


(1)這款酒來自新或舊世界酒區?

大概可根據以下三點得出初部總結。首先,對比nose(聞香 )及palate(味道)中所測到的菓香熟成度。一般來說,來自舊世界酒區的葡萄酒聞香上的菓香較味道上的菓香甜且熟,新世界則相反。這跟舊世界酒區偏好釀造菓香較收斂的葡萄酒相關。第二,試找出及分辨葡萄酒中的礦物香。

一般來說,舊世界酒區的葡萄酒多帶濃烈的礦物香。Tim Gaiser MS在指導學生如何辨認礦物香的時候,提到口腔前顎門牙後方特別能夠辨認Chalk (白堊)的味道。

其他常見的礦物香包括德國Riesling 中常找到的Slate(板岩),法國隆河酒區白及紅酒中常找到的Granite(花崗),法國波爾多右岸紅酒中常找到的clay(黏土)等。強烈的礦物香多代表該葡萄酒來自舊世界酒區。最後,試辦認聞香及味覺上的橡木桶特徵:所用的是新還是舊木桶?法國還是美國木桶?小的225升木桶、較大的900升木桶、還是其他?傳統來說,舊世界葡萄酒的木桶香偏向呈現香料、雪茄等較沉鬱的味道,新世界葡萄酒則呈現雲呢嗱、椰子香等味道。

Brian Cronin MS於工作坊上特別指出,今日的橡木桶製造技術不斷進步,上述的傳統分別已慢慢縮小,air-cured和kiln-dried的美國橡木桶,前者的橡木香風格跟法國橡木桶幾乎難以分辨。


(2)這款酒來自涼爽/中等/和暖氣候的酒區?

這跟葡萄酒的酸度成反比,跟菓香熟成度成正比。酒區平均溫度越高,菓香越甜且熟,酸度相對較柔和。那是否偏南的北半球酒區,所產出的葡萄酒菓香較偏北的熟?以同一葡萄品種來說,這說法基本成立。但需小心高度對氣候的影響。高度可使偏南的酒區經歷較北的酒區的氣候。同時,收成時間也影響菓香熟成度,有些酒庄偏愛提早收割以保持葡萄中清爽的酸度,也有些酒庄選擇讓葡萄完熟後多懸掛於藤上,以提高葡萄中的餘糖量。後者看似容易混淆但其實不然,涼爽氣候的葡萄,收成時間即便被刻意延遲,依然會保持較一般水平高的酸度,餘糖跟酸度兩相提高是涼爽氣候晚收葡萄酒得寵的要因。


(3)這款酒來自什麼葡萄品種?

這是大多數同學碰釘的環節。葡萄品種大概可從如下五點推論出來。上面已略討論了礦物香及酸度兩點,這兩點能縮窄所可能出現的葡萄品種的範圍。舉例:菓香偏熟帶桃子、杏脯,礦物香帶板岩,味覺上酸度高但同時帶一定餘糖,這是來自舊世界酒區,特別是德國Mosel產區的晚收Riesling的特點。 除了這兩點外,我們還可根據丹寧高低及來源、特殊葡萄聞香及味道如Pyrazine及Terpene、酒精度等去幫助推理。先談丹寧高低及來源,大部分同學都深明丹寧來自葡萄皮及莖。葡萄皮越厚或葡萄發酵的時候未被去莖均會提高酒中丹寧度。丹寧同時能來自橡木桶。

較少同學知道如何分辨丹寧來自葡萄本身還是木桶。Matthew Citriglia MS 點出來自葡萄本身的丹寧多帶來裹住整個口腔(coating)的感覺,相反來自木桶的丹寧多只攻擊口腔部分部位。

現在談勘測特殊葡萄聞香及味道如Pyrazine及Terpene如何幫助我們推理葡萄品種。Pyrazine味道多呈現為草青味、青椒味、蘆筍的味道,易於經典葡萄品種如長相思(Sauvignon Blanc)及Cabernet葡萄家族以下的品麗珠(Cabernet Franc),佳美娜(Carmenere)及赤霞珠(Cabernet Sauvignon)中找到。Terpene味道多呈現為氣油味、天竺葵花香等,易於經陳年,成熟的蕾絲玲(Riesling)中找到。

最後談酒精度。酒精度跟葡萄中含的糖份水平固然有直接水平。葡萄酒的酒精源自發酵過程中,酵母把糖份轉化成酒精。如上所提,一般而言,較暖的酒區所產的葡萄糖份較高,顧此酒精度也相應更高。此外,不同的葡萄品種均帶不同程度的酒精度,例維奧妮(Viognier)屬偏高酒精度(一般達13.5至14度)的白葡萄品種,黑皮諾(Pinot Noir)則屬偏低酒精度(一般達12至13.5度)的紅葡萄品種。熟知以上理論資訊,可幫助縮窄葡萄品種的可能性。盲品的時候,留意視覺上的酒精黏度(Viscosity),也就是晃杯後酒掛形成速度及流動速度,越慢代表兩點:一,酒精度偏高;二,葡萄酒中含餘糖。另一個測量酒精度的方法是感受喉嚨所能感應的灼熱度。


(4)這款酒酒齡多久,釀自什麼年份?

大部分同學會由酒中菓香所呈現的狀態分析:成熟的葡萄酒的菓香偏乾菓如乾紅苺、杏脯乾;什至發展出菜乾、冬菇、松露香等味道。對比年青葡萄酒的新鮮多汁的水菓,這是最顯然的分別。除此以外,視覺分析在這環節上也能大派用場,特別在推論葡萄酒的實際酒齡。基本步是理解紅白酒隨時間發展的顏色變化:隨著陳年,紅酒的顏色會變淺,白酒會變深。分析葡萄酒的邊緣色帶(Rim Variation)可以大概得出葡萄酒已陳年多久。邊緣色帶褪色部份越長,代表葡萄酒陳年時間越久。另外,明白不同葡萄品種的褪色速度(氧化速度)也很重要,某些葡萄品種如白詩南(Chenin Blanc)及內比奧羅(Nebbiolo)褪色速度較快,前者只需2至3年便呈現出澄黃色調。對比抗氧化能力較高的赤霞珠(Cabernet Sauvignon),及內比奧羅(Nebbiolo)只需3至5年便呈現山橘橙的邊緣。在推理酒齡及年份的時候,必須注意。

上述不同的推理方法不過是進行盲品的時候,一小部份可依循的根據。學習葡萄酒的過程中,會接觸到不同葡萄酒評核機構設計的品酒方法,個人認為WSETSystematic Approach of Tasting是一個很不錯的起點,能幫助初學葡萄酒的同學快速掌握如何書寫一條全面及詳細的品酒筆記,隱弊在於容易令同學把盲品變成一項填充或勾出關鍵字的練習,Medium plus acidity、Long finish、Good quality 等,經多次模擬考試訓練後被視為應考時盡討分數的技倆。CMS的Deductive Tasting Approach著重同學根據所觀察到的葡萄酒特點,推論出葡萄酒的來歷。這個方法較難掌握,特別是理論基礎較弱的同學。得到CMS第一及第二級證書後,繼續進修的同學需要學習及適應如何口頭滙報品酒筆記,這比書寫更困難,要求同學更敏捷思考及應變 。

「不視」和「盲」,彷若一線之差,其實是開竅與否之差。推理還是瞎猜,哪條路通往羅馬,不言而喻。

Photo Credit: www.winefolly.com

踏出成為MW和MS的第一步

wine artwork

希望獲取國際認可的「大師」(Master) 資格的葡萄酒學生,暫有兩大途徑。一為攻讀 Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) 的課程,二為參加 Court of Master Sommeliers (CMS) 的考試。前者被視為參加 Master of Wine (MW) 考試前的建議課程,後者為成為 Master Sommelier (MS) 必須通過的考核。今日全球共有304位 Masters of Wine ,187位 Master Sommeliers 。成為兩類大師皆不容易,今天先談談如何得到「認可」(Certified) 。(假設閣下未曾參加葡萄酒課程,但有興趣考慮以最快捷的途徑成為「認可」葡萄酒專業人士。忠告:快捷的方法並不容易,努力!)

Wine and Spirits Education Trust

(WSET)

Court of Master Sommeliers

(CMS)

途徑 直接報讀 Level 3 Advanced Certificate:考生合格後可申請使用 Certified logo。 報讀 Level 1 + 2 Introductory and Certified Sommelier:恰如其名,合格後成為認可 Certified Sommelier
最高級別 Level 5 Honours Diploma。需注意WSET雖公認為 Masters of Wine 的建議入門課程,但它並不是參加 Masters of Wine 考試的修讀條件。 Level 4 Master Sommelier
修讀條件 沒有規定,不需先通過 Level 1及 Level 2考試,但WSET官方建議攻讀Level 3的考生先考取Level 2証書。 必須先通過 Level 1 Introductory Sommelier 考試,如同時申請Level 1及2的考試,如於 Level 1的65條選擇題考試中答對70%或以上,可直接「晉級」參加 Level 2的考試,否則需完成 Level 1的術科考試:侍用白葡萄酒。
考核過程 50條選擇題 + 短答題 + 盲品2款葡萄酒 40條選擇題及短答題 + 盲品2款葡萄酒 + 術科考試:待用氣泡酒及即席問答
合格要求 理論卷及盲品卷各答對55﹪或以上 Level 1: 答對60﹪或以上Level 2: 答對65﹪或以上
課程長度 約30小時 約20小時(需注意Level 2並不包含授課環節,這20個小時的授課包括在Level 1的費用及安排中)
試酒量 約80款酒 約20款酒
導師資格 考獲 WSET Certified Educator 的導師,英國總部規限每間認可授課的中心 (Approved Programme Provider) 均有一位或以上擁有 Certified Educator 資格的導師,故全球人數逾500人以上。導師需考獲WSET四級Diploma文憑及通過共有六個單元的 Certified Educator 考試 186位 Master Sommeliers 輪流飛往全球各地講課,香港課程常邀得撰寫課程主要參考書Sales and Service of the Wine Professional的作者(亦為CMS的founding member)Brian Julyan MS 主講。
頻密度 每月總有一家認可機構開辦新課程,香港共17家認可機構,未能盡錄,以下為一些例子:

  1. AWSEC Hong Kong
  2. HKU SPACE
  3. HK Wine Academy
  4. Grande Passione
  5. CU SCS
  6. YMCA College of Continuing Education
大概每年一至兩次,現在只有 HKU SPACE 籌辦這個課程
成績宣佈 1-2個月後以書面通知,分紙上可知道自己的理論卷及盲品卷各得什麼等級。等級共有四級:Pass with Distinction, Pass with Merit, Pass 及 Fail。 考核後即日通知,由監考的Master Sommeliers 宣佈(十分刺激!)另每位 Certified Sommelier 考生均會得到個人評語表,從而知道自己的優點及缺點。
價錢 港幣9800元 Level 1: 港幣7500元Level 2: 港幣6500元合共:港幣14000元 
個人考後感 於年前完成 WSET Advanced 課程,好處是課堂節奏較慢,每次上課學習一至兩個酒區,每個酒區可平均品試3﹣4款酒。同時,課程完結後有1﹣2個月的時間準備考試,比較輕鬆。短答題需書寫較長答案,但所問的範圍較「大路」,例:詳列葡萄酒發酵過程的程序;簡述某主要酒區氣候特色等。個人覺得,此課程略欠侍酒訓練,打理酒杯的方法,藏酒及存酒的技巧,侍用氣泡酒如何避免「砰然一響」等,這些實用知識於 WSET 課程中流於紙上談兵。 CMS 於 Certified 課程考核如何侍用氣泡酒,於 Advanced 課程考核如何醒酒﹣於 WSET 課程中,這兩杖事通常只於選擇題或短答題中要求考生回答。 剛考過 CMS 考試,排山倒海式教學,節奏緊湊,需打醒200分精神及預早備課(熟讀 Brian Julyan MS 所著的 Sales and Service of the Wine Professional )才行。大力推介給好學不孜的 serious wine lover,此課程導師俱為 Master Sommelier,這次有幸得到 Brian Julyan MS(CMS 創辦會員及行政總裁)及 Tim Gaiser MS(美國分會教育總監)親自飛抵香港授課,獲益良多!2日密集式課程,試酒時間不多但因導師實戰經驗豐富,能火速改善品酒技巧。因考試包括由 Master Sommelier 親自監考的術科部分,故課程完結後需即時參加考試,較大壓力。短答題直接但刁鑽,例:Cotes de Meliton 酒區來自何國?(答案是 Macedonia!)Banyuls 酒區主要葡萄是什麼?(答案是 Grenache )。個人覺得,最大得著必定是侍酒訓練及禮儀!

小結:修畢兩個課程,實難取捨敦優敦劣。很明顯兩者的出發點不同,重點也不同。前者著重以品試大量葡萄酒來擴闊及加深認識,花在葡萄酒種植及釀酒的時間也較多,屬較學術性的一個課程。後者(特別是 Certified Sommelier 程度)的出發點在於確保業界人士擁有全面的知識,從葡萄酒產區、葡萄品種、侍酒需知、烈酒、及至雞尾酒成份及調製方法也作出適當考核,屬實用性十分高的一個課程。

Photo Credit: theage.com.au

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