Tag: women

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

品酒班提升品味?

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上周跟CosmoGirl的主編Joven Mak談到一些香港女生參加品酒活動,打算一石二鳥,一為提昇個人品味,增加個人吸引力,二為擴闊生活圈子,同時物色有品味的異性「筍盤」。
坊間有許多「推廣葡萄酒文化」的品酒班,推廣角度多包括「提升個人品味」,自是凝聚了一班相信學會品酒便能提高生活品味的善男信女。然而,大部分品酒班多着重教授基本的品酒技巧、各個酒區的特點和酒風、葡萄酒的常見味道及聞香等,葡萄酒和品味拉上關係,那關係體現在哪裏?「品味」真的能從學習「New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc 帶草青味」等培養出來嗎?
靠品酒班提高品味,我請各位姊妹停一停,想一想,「品味」究竟是甚麼?
「品味」是一個在潛意識讓人產生好感的詞語。在最基本的層面,泛指一個人懂得一些富有文化背景、多樣化和帶複雜性的事物,那事物成就一種公認的「美感」。所以,懂得音樂、藝術、文學或葡萄酒的人,常被視為「有品味」的人。然而,如果「品味」純粹指一個人特別有學問的話,那跟「書呆子」或「百事通」有啥分別?
個人覺得,「品味」除了需要能耐和興趣去學習外,更在乎一個人有願意分享的心態。「深入」跟同儕同研所好的同時,能夠「淺出」跟泛輩清楚生動地解釋一己所好之物;深入淺出,是分享的精髓。分享並不只是一種活動,拿一瓶好酒出來,跟友好分享自己的感受及評價,重點不在自我炫耀。品味需要廣闊的胸襟,是一種生活態度。
各位參加品酒活動希望物色The One的姐妹,請小心那位眉飛色舞地數說他曾喝過的Fine Wine的風騷男,或豪擲千金買瓶貴價酒來炫富的小生。品味,看重學問,在乎分享,但最重要的,是謙遜的把以上的表現出來。在品酒活動中結識朋友,留意那個沒怎麼說話,但認真試酒的人。他未必是真命天子,但至少是一個當朋友不錯的材料。
Photo Credit: www.townwalk.co.uk

啖啖情,酌酌愛

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選酒的樂趣,引人入勝的地方偶有辛棄疾的「眾裏尋她千百度」之感,衣香鬢影中尋尋覓覓,可能不過在找「燈火闌珊處」的那一個他。找到心悅的佳醇,令人更醉心的莫過於能配上美食,不亦樂乎。酒食搭配的樂趣,樂而不疲的動力素乎秦觀「鵲橋仙」中的意境:「金風玉露一相逢,便勝卻人間無數」。

戴一腔浪漫看葡萄酒,源於發掘葡萄酒世界及釀造過程中所衍生的一份情意結。釀酒的過程建基於工藝細節,臻善於人文精神。葡萄酒精湛的地方與它背後的人息息相關。一口醇釀,凝聚的是釀酒師從經驗積累的智慧和幾個世紀的家族軼事和歷史趣聞。一點一滴蘸上技術和文化的葡萄汁,隨著時間陳變,從含羞緊澀蛻變得圓滑成熟。葡萄酒把人的縮影反映在大自然的產物中,「吃」是人與生俱來的本能 ﹣ 人性和本能的會合,是酒食搭配的精髓。個人喜好並沒有專業與否之分,不妨讓舌頭來定義優劣。選酒能否做到多樣化,這跟試酒機會的多寡有關。總而言之,酒食搭配貴乎嘗試,基本上並沒有對錯。

酒食搭配的傳統學說,提供指引性的大方向,規範酒食搭配如何能做到味道及口感上互相輝映,不致相衝的境界。紅酒配牛排,白酒配鮮魚或白肉類主菜,以偏甜的葡萄酒去襯微辣的菜式;這些都是深入民心的葡萄酒「學問」。這些指引原意在於幫助我們思考葡萄酒和食物之間的互動,但同時釀成配菜出現墨守成規,千篇一律的情況。又因這些指引性的搭配「規則」背後含有一定科學性的邏輯(例如紅酒配牛排能做到軟化肉質,有賴葡萄酒中的單寧物與紅肉類堅韌的蛋白質結構的結合),為酒食搭配添加了對與錯的觀念,規限了大家的創意。

來自世界各地的葡萄酒近年積極打進亞洲市場,一方面以家鄉傳統和故事牽起消費者的好奇心,同時入鄉隨俗,捲起一股亞洲菜系跟葡萄酒搭配的風潮。恕我庸俗,亞洲菜和蒪萄酒的搭配需要處理的問題,和「洋人與東方人拍拖和相處」之道異曲同工。文化不同怎樣相容?習慣不同如何磨合?品味不同如何互補?感情如此,酒食搭配也不外如是 ﹣ 引首位亞裔葡萄酒大師李志延的理念,亞洲菜系與葡萄酒的搭配,須先了解葡萄酒本身的特點與食物主要的味道,進而決定葡萄酒和食物之間該做到互補(Complement),對比(Contrast)還是陪襯(Accompany)的效果。沿用這種思路設計酒食搭配餐單,形同管理人和人間的關係。知己知彼,因材施用,不為規則所限,這正是酒食搭配至臻完美的思考模式。

泰式海鮮料理如咖喱蟹煲配上Dry Oloroso Sherry,倍增兩者既有的鮮味。(Photo Credit: Mango Tree Hong Kong)

泰式海鮮料理如咖喱蟹煲配上Dry Oloroso Sherry,倍增兩者既有的鮮味。(Photo Credit: Mango Tree Hong Kong)

近日我相約了一班酒友,試把泰國菜跟葡萄酒進行搭配。一行十五個人一天晚上試了十三款酒,,為求比較及對比,一款菜配上兩種風格截然不同的酒去搭配,先來一款菓香豐馥的,後配一款結實含蓄的。全晚的驚喜之配是泰式海鮮料理與西班牙乾型雪莉酒的搭配。Dry Oloroso Sherry本身帶一股十分獨特,近似腐乳鹹鮮味的聞香。有時候,我乾脆打趣比喻乾型雪莉酒為鹹香花生的化身。這款酒有別於主流葡萄酒的味道,單獨品飲難登討好大眾之列。然而,以泰式海鮮料理配之,剛好善用泰國香料濃烈的味道,與雪莉酒的鹹香互補。雪莉酒中來自釀造過程形成的酵母(flor)的腐香變淡,反強調了食物的鮮度。不可不提,雪莉酒屬強化酒的一種,酒精度達18至20%。襯以豐盛果腹的食物,讓食客能欣賞這款酒之餘,能保持味覺不被酒精弄麻的方法。

酒食搭配,求的是一顆冒險求新的心,就著已知的食物和葡萄酒特性設計相輔相承的味道組合,同時體貼考慮整個晉餐過程。舉一反三,不妨試用計劃第一次約會的心態去策劃酒食搭配:別把自己牢牢框死於傳統規範中,來點新意但必須先了解約會的另一方的個性,留意每個細節,但別忘了你正在舖排一個晚上的整體體驗。最後:投入享受,此乃無往而不利之道!

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