If you haven’t had the chance to follow me in French, I will recap the last few days of this extremely hectic and stressful competition, starting at 8:00am on Monday morning after only receiving my luggage the previous evening was an extra concern that I didn’t really need, but I arrived ready for anything, I got more than I bargained for though, 3 hours of written exams, blind tasting, and an extremely quick service exam.
We started the morning with the initial written exam that would count towards the main competition, 90 minutes and 18 pages of questions, there were some parts of the exam that made me happy, that I had gone into such depths in some of the respective regions, Italy, South Africa, Spain, just a few of the countries that I have worked on to a larger degree, but it wasn’t all plain sailing though, Germany… always a weakness of mine, there was a question that corresponds to 0.5% of the German wine production, I spoke with the German candidate afterwards… he was unable to even answer that question, we were all in the same boat.
Blind tasting of a white and red wine, written down, not completed orally, 10 minutes per wine, to write all the information down on a page, this is something that we rarely do, more often than not we are speaking about the wine, I was able to just scribble down a tasting that was, I hope, legible enough, in the time allowed, I discussed with some of the other candidates afterwards, talking about what we called the wines, Albariño from Spain and Blaufränkisch from Austria were my calls, I believe that my white was correct, not so much for the red, but there were more points to be gained from the tasting, and very few applicable to the appellation (of what I understood) , so it was more about the process to the conclusion than the conclusion itself. 3 spirits blind tasted, I was all over them, thanks for all the sniffets guys.
We then headed into the service exam, now this is where it gets interesting, not to say everything leading up to this wasn’t, but this was something else, at the start of the day we drew numbers out of a hat to determine the order of service, when I pulled out candidate number 56, and then realizing we were only 52 candidates I thought, my, this is going to be an extremely long day, I was the dead last to pass to the service, after waiting, for an extremely long period of time, in a 14 degree room, starting to think that I’m a human, not a bottle of Chardonnay that needs to be chilled, I was able to pass to the room, the mis-en-situation, to choose the correct bottle, in a selection of mixed up bottles and vintages, arrange all the glasses, the trolley, told that I was to not decant the bottle, present the bottle to the guest in a basket, discuss my wine and food paring, proceed to open the capsule and taste the wine, pick up the bottle and then… TIMES UP… I was unable to serve the guests in the time allowed… unfortunately I had missed the call to say go at the beginning, I had to ask if I could proceed, in doing this I believe I lost, perhaps 20 seconds, I left the room furious with myself, and on leaving… refusing the Japanese camera crew an interview in a semi-abrupt manner (don’t worry, I made it up to them the next day with an extended interview on the roof of the hotel).
After all of the adventures of the day, I eventually had a chance to discuss with the other candidates how they went, then realizing that through it all… many of us performed at the same level, many were unable to even open the bottle of wine in the service exam, we found one of the candidates from a Nordic country in the bar directly afterwards, drinking a stiff, hard drink, then requesting another, we imagined that he had failed miserably, upon questioning, he said, no I was able to completely finish everything, even clear the table, he went on to say that he has always suffered with proceeding too quickly… his wife is never happy with him… honesty in moments of stress, it’s funny.
Just when you thought there was enough, we also sat 2 other written exams, to determine the Peter Lehemann Shiraz trophy winner, and the San Pellegrino trophy winner, we have still not found out the results from these 2 exams.
Great news though arrived last night, I was included in the top 12 to proceed to the semi-finals, find the list of candidates below, including an extremely happy photo of us all.
I have just come out of an hour long exam… one of the most difficult I have ever had the chance to sit for, upon leaving the Italian candidate mentioned that they are making it almost impossible to answer the questions now, I tend to agree, but I’m putting it behind me, and heading into the afternoon, looking forward to areas that I believe I excel in, service and blind tasting, so wish me all the best of luck, and I’ll touch base with you again shortly when I reach the other side… Ciao.