Month: June 2014

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.


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.


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


「你有看2005年美國恐怖片The Exorcism of Emily Rose 嗎?該片主角是根據我們這個小鎮的1950年代的原居民Anneliese Michel的故事改編的!Anneliese 二十三歲時因抵受不住所謂『驅魔』治療,導致嚴重營養不良和脫水而死。去年她在我們小鎮的故居午夜失火,據說不少報章攝影師拍下的照片能看到Anneliese 的影子!」

近半夜12時,大夥兒正跟隨 Weingut Stadt Klingenberg,出生於德國盛產 Pinot Noir 紅酒 Ahr 河谷的年輕莊主 Benedikt Baltes,一起前往德國 Bavaria 省 Klingenberg 鎮地標,座落半山的中世紀古堡 Clingenberg 的戶外葡萄酒派對。這個人口才不過6000多人的小鎮,位於美茵河下游部分,800多年的歷史為這個小鎮的晚上帶來古舊的靜謐,一切本來就是我這個都市百忙中萬分期盼的歐陸舒雅。嘿,真不知道我犯著了什麼,半夜跟這年僅28歲,對酒跟人生都滿腔熱誠的 Benedikt 邊走邊聊,怎地從談論葡萄酒談到驅魔的呢?晚上的悄靜,突然添上半分心寒,直教我哆嗦。

半夜怪談倒數六個小時,那是同日傍晚時分,我們一行六七人從小鎮酒店步行到 Weingut Stadt Klingenberg。Benedikt 的酒莊是我們五天酒莊行的最後一站,連日舟居勞頓,大家基本都累透了,心裡想著這個世界釀酒地圖上毫不起眼的小區,大概不會有啥驚喜,還是迅速試完酒,回酒店收拾行李準備翌日登機回家好了。Benedikt 緩緩從品酒室走出來迎接我們,笑容可掬的他兩邊臉蛋染著夕日的橘紅,與六時許的豔陽相輝映,彷彿在提醒所謂「天地人」結合的 Terroir,常被省略但不可或缺的一部分是人。Benedikt 簡述酒莊歷史,葡萄田位置及特色等,然後畫龍點晴的指出:「我的長遠打算是在我的田裏100%種植 Pinot Noir。」大家都有點意外了,這個在釀酒分區上屬於德國 Franken 大區,Franken 產區近80%葡萄是白葡萄,以 Müller-Thurgau和Silvaner 為主,約20%的紅葡萄品種,以 Domina 和 Spatburgunder(也就是大家熟識的 Pinot Noir)為主。一般酒莊為減低失收風險和迎合更廣泛口味,都選擇種植多種葡萄品種。像 Benedikt 般計劃專注於單一葡萄品種的屬少數。Benedikt 的 Pinot Noir 大計,啟示了這次酒莊遊的 Noir 發現。

Benedikt 的私人酒藏幾乎全都是 Pinot Noir,來自世界各地不同酒區,好讓他能參考不同酒風。這一節是他的古稀酒藏。

Benedikt 的私人酒藏幾乎全都是 Pinot Noir,來自世界各地不同酒區,好讓他能參考不同酒風。這一節是他的古稀酒藏。
Klingenberg 的優質葡萄田的特色,與其他德國頂級葡萄田同中帶異。位於適合釀酒地帶的邊緣位置的德國,頂級葡萄田幾乎全都位於非常陡峭的斜坡、斜坡面向南方及臨近河畔(以享受河面反射的額外日照)。Klingenberg 的頂級葡萄田 Hohberg 和 Schlossberg 亦然,稍為不同的是由於斜坡實在太陡峭,故這兩塊葡萄田依梯田設計,矮矮的葡萄樹竪立在密窄的梯田上,遠觀有點像中國的茶園!近年全球暖化的關係,減低了這個產區以致全德所有酒區熟成 Pinot Noir 的難度。此外,德國年輕一代的釀酒師積極周遊全球各國頂級產區進行釀酒及種植技術交流,以 Benedikt 為例,他打算於葡萄園改用法國勃艮地高密集種植密度(一公頃10,000株葡萄樹),以提昇葡萄酒濃度及質素。這兩個來自大自然及人的改變,勢必為德國紅酒帶來新景象。

2010 Klingenberger Blanc de Noir “R” 1500ml Magnum 瓶。

2010 Klingenberger Blanc de Noir “R” 1500ml Magnum 瓶。
Benedikt 為我們安排的品酒,當然是全 Pinot Noir 的。先試白酒。大家別見外,Pinot Noir 是可以用來做白酒的,經典酒區法國香檳區便是表表者。香檳區的 Pinot Noir,透徹中帶點粉紅躍影的酒液是由壓榨及發酵去皮的葡萄製成的,再經二次發酵後,用上 100% Pinot Noir 的 Blanc de Noirs,與 Chardonnay 和Pinot Meunier 混成的便是大家熟悉的 Champagne blend。Benedikt 演繹的 Pinot Noir 白酒,冠名 Blanc de Noirs,但卻不是氣泡酒。他用的是採收回來的葡萄的自流汁(free run juice)進行發酵,後經適當木桶及瓶中陳釀製成的。2010 年的 Reserve,教人喜出望外。無過濾,歷經乳酸菌發酵後加以五個月一半在新木桶,一半在舊木桶陳釀的這款 Pinot Noir 白酒,滿鼻黃梨、黃梅、中調帶牛肝蕈菇和松露的香氣,很成熟多變的一款白酒,與德國 Franken 區盛產的 Silvaner 白酒味道及風格皆截然不同。後試他釀造的 Pinot Noir 紅酒,有別於一般德國 Pinot Noir,予我果香奔放、常帶濃烈火山岩的辛香的味感,Benedikt 的作品帶勃艮地的含蓄和骨幹,這大概與他如何處理葡萄有關。Weingut Stadt Klingenberg 的葡萄採收後平均浸皮時間偏長,且以野生自然酵母發酵,後由釀酒團隊根據酒液的特性分別置於300至2400升不等的德國橡木桶中陳釀。除了酒莊的入門酒 Buntsandstein Spatburgunder Trocken 外,所有作品在灌瓶前皆不經過濾,好讓葡萄酒保留更多陳年過程中綻放多樣化味道的酚類化合物(phenolics)。

午夜時分 Clingenburg 古堡,戶外葡萄酒派對的霓虹燈讓古堡添上一層摩登感。

午夜時分 Clingenburg 古堡,戶外葡萄酒派對的霓虹燈讓古堡添上一層摩登感。
八瓶酒過後,大夥兒都心滿意足了。打算回程之際,Benedikt 謂當天晚上他和團隊在半山的 Clingenburg 古堡舉辦一年一度的戶外「樂與怒」葡萄酒派對。貪玩的小眾跟隨 Benedikt 走小路到半山的古堡參加派對。早已夜深的關係,整個小鎮除了澄黃的街燈照亮街角外,幾乎都是黑影重疊的。我跟 Benedikt 走在前面,幾瓶酒後加上志趣相投的關係大家都混熟了,也就無所不談了。這「不識趣」的大男孩於是偏離他的 Pinot Noir 大計,聊起這個小鎮的另類Noir事兒:那個1950年代因承受不住「驅魔」程序而死的妙齡女生 Anneliese Michel。人就是喜歡心裡自作崇,我就是這樣帶著不安走了十多分鐘坡路,杯弓蛇影,看見燈火通明的戶外葡萄酒派對會場真鬆了一口大氣。


Clingenburg 古堡褪去黃昏時分莊嚴聳然的模樣,堡壘高處裝上嫣紅霓紫的射燈,照射廣場中心臨時搭建的表演台,台下佈滿半站半坐的羣眾,他們都在喝葡萄酒,用的不是那優雅的高腳杯,而是迷你啤酒杯。這種以酒會友的葡萄酒活動跟香港主流要求衣著端莊的品酒會,大家也許分享著同樣的開心;前者額外的半分狂野玩味,成就了我在香港大部分的品酒活動中,難遇上的一份輕鬆自在。我在想,推動葡萄酒文化,或許可以偏離品味人生,從玩味人生出發?午夜兩點半回到房間,我心裏一邊慶幸人已累得大概沒氣力胡思亂想啥鬼怪魔妖之事,一邊想我這輩子大概不會忘記 小鎮 Klingenberg 教人著「魔」的醇酒風情。葡萄酒是生活,是人情,更是充滿活力,更是平易近人,這小鎮完美地呈現了。Prost! (敬酒 “Cheers” 的德文)


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