A few weeks ago, I saw the movie Somm for the first time.
It follows a group of young men as they try to pass the examinations necessary to become a Master Sommelier, the culmination of years of study and four separate step-by-step certifications. Successful candidates must know details about every wine region of the world, understand the intricacies of winemaking and be able to identify a series of wines—grape varietal, origin, maker—tasting blind. It tests for outrageously arcane wine knowledge and has one of the highest fail rates of any certification test of any kind.
I have to say, several things struck me as I watched these young people sweat it out. One, what a bunch of arrogant competitive jerks this is. Two, where are the women?
Three, I'm glad I know wine experts—some of them master sommeliers—who are more interested in sharing than winning.
Because no matter how rigorous the process is to become a sommelier, master or not, a sommelier's job is to help other people enjoy wine.
Like Jimmy Santangelo does here in Salt Lake City. His Wine Academy of Utah offers classes to amateurs and professionals alike. One of them is a certification different from The Court of Sommeliers which awards the title "master," but mainly Jimmy teaches wine appreciation at the Leonardo and through continuing education at the University of Utah and private tastings. He teaches restaurant servers how to present wine to customers.
And his latest endeavor, the Executive Wine Series, is another step in his mission to teach the world to love wine more.
This time, the class is cleverly designed for business professionals—instead of concentrating on the history or the making of wine, this course emphasizes practical knowledge: how to order wine. Of course this involves some background about wine production and history, the principles of how climate affects grapes and the main varietals, but the point of the class is how to use this knowledge when you're faced with a wine list.
Even to a moderately knowledgeable wine drinker, a wine list can be one of the most intimidating documents you'll encounter outside the IRS. This class gives you the tools to attack it.
Using a real wine list and a set of simple principles, The Executive Wine Series aims to accomplish that most tiresome of modern verbs, "empowering" novices or just those of us with wine insecurity to successfully order wine you and your associates will enjoy. Perfect for business professionals who frequently in entertain in restaurants, but also good for those of us who simply want to enjoy wine more, not make it our life's work.
Who won't drink to that?
The next Executive Wine Series will be held at the Alta Club on Wednesday evenings, May 7 and 14th.