Food & Wine

Wine Overwhelm

April 13, 2013

As I was sitting in my Wines I exam the other night, staring forlornly at the pages and wishing the names of regions and grapes would magically appear, I had a bit of an epiphany. I am in over my head. It’s fine – I set myself up to drown and that feeling of overwhelm is all my own doing, but that doesn’t make it easier. Because despite the hours of study I had put into this course, despite all the wine tastings attended and online articles read, I’m still far too new to this.

And that’s OK. Should I have thrown myself headlong into wine with the enthusiasm of one completely besotted? Maybe not, but what harm has it done? I’ve finally found my passion and I’m thrilled to be able to share that excitement with all those I meet and the growing numbers who read my blog (if I haven’t said it enough, thanks for reading).

But as I watched those names spin in front of me I had to take a step back and look at where I’d put myself. It was exactly eleven months since I started to get really interested in wine and in less than a year I’ve taken on a wine blog (chronicling my newbie adventures), read many a wine book, read every wine article I could get my hands on, visited dozens of wineries, talked to many wine makers and tried countless wines. But it’s only been eleven months and here I was taking the first course towards my Wine Specialist Certification – despite the fact that a year ago I was more likely to order a martini than a Merlot. Or that the class was set up to teach me about international wine regions when prior to that first class I had drunk almost exclusively Ontario wines. To say I had a limited scope from the get-go would be an understatement.

So is it any wonder that as I tried desperately to remember the different regions of Burgundy and Bordeaux, I felt like I was sinking? I was always an excellent student, but I remember how I struggled with French for years. Even in university, French and I were not good friends. So it seems like some kind of sick irony that my vinous undoing was coming about as I prayed that a million French names I thought I had memorized would pop into my head. And in the right order. With the correct grape varietals attached. Please.

I finished the exam, completed the tasting portion and walked out shaken. I had studied so hard, but half of what I focused on wasn’t included and the wine regions I knew best were the ones least represented. That’s life, but it still shook me up. I’d envisioned sitting in front of the test feeling good and positive and sure about my answers. Instead, I was anything but.

Shawn helped me put it into perspective afterwards, “You just started learning about wine, this is still new to you, you’ve taken on way more than most people would and you’re doing really well. And you’re not giving up, so that’s the most important thing.” Wise words from my husband, who likely noticed that despite my upset, I was laying in bed reading Wine for Dummies (a surprisingly informative book despite the name) and already looking forward to the next course.
 
And, of course, I’m not giving up. For all my wine exam stress, I loved the course, learned so much from the instructor and can’t wait to go back and learn even more. I’m fairly certain I passed the exam, even if it didn’t come to me as easily as I expected, and even if I didn’t I’d just have to dust myself off and try again. But this was a good opportunity to put my new love in perspective – wine isn’t easy. Oh, it’s easy enough to drink, but it’s going to take a whole lot more than tastings to get my Wine Specialist Certification! And I’m certainly thankful and grateful that as I continue my wine education, I will have a wonderful and supportive wine community to remind me that I’ll get there – maybe just not as quickly as I’d like.

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3 Comments

  • Reply Holly Bruns April 14, 2013 at 12:41 pm

    This is a great post. Thanks for sharing. And it IS so hard. You have to study geography and language and science and then put that all to practical use. I find all those Italian grapes with their foreign names so difficult. Keep drinking!

  • Reply KristaLamb April 14, 2013 at 9:46 pm

    Thanks!! I figured I'd share because I'm sure I'm not the only one who has had that moment of panic in their first wine exam. In the end, I'm sure I did fine, but it has been so nice hearing from others about how they struggled at first too. 🙂

  • Reply Monika April 17, 2013 at 2:17 am

    Great post Krista! It gets easier..and harder…then easier again! 🙂 I struggle too. The best way to really solidify the information is to pretend you're teaching it to someone else. If you can explain the material to others then you really know it. Just keep at it!

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