I should have sensed that something was amiss. The sun was shining, Master of Wine exams over, and I was feeling, if not quite like I was walking on air (something I suspect is impossible after three days of punishing exams), like all was reasonably well in a decent version of all possible worlds.
With only about a month remaining before my MW tasting exams as I wrap up this article, the pressure is now somewhere on the dial between 10 and 11. I remember from about this time last year that this is when most of us begin to show subtle (and some less subtle) signs of wear – under-eye bags more than usually baggy, spines like typhoon-battered tree trunks from shuttling about weighty tomes and cases of wine, teeth perpetually black from daily tasting.
One question that never seems to get old when you reveal to people that your version of studying involves tasting lots of different types of wine is “you must drink loads of good wine then?” Regrettably, this truly isn’t the case (at least, not while I’m studying). Loathe as I am to play the consummate wine snob, even my well-exercised liver simply lacks the capacity to process whole bottles of the myriad (many, sadly, rather average) wines that I’m required to know intimately in order to pass the Master of Wine tasting exams.
Blind tasting has always been, I must confess, one of the banes of my vinous existence. While some Master of Wine students and particularly Master Sommeliers (a totally separate undertaking with its own London-based HQ, the Court of Master Sommeliers) take to blind tasting like chardonnay to oak barrels, I view it as a necessary evil.