Esprit de Corps
How Wine Students Foster a Common Spirit at ICE
In his monthly musing, Dean of Wine Studies Scott Carney reflects on a recent class's commitment to blind wine tasting together despite pandemic limitations.
In our Intensive Sommelier Training program, one of the things that becomes immediately clear to new students is the fact that a good amount of time will need to be spent outside of class to meet its considerable demands. This means hitting the books in preparation for the lectures and exams and continuing the exercise of one’s tasting skills through blind tasting.
In the first lecture of the program, I encourage students to get to know one another quickly with the goal that those with compatible schedules or those living in close proximity can find common time to study and taste together. To this end, my pitch goes something like this:
Imagine that you can travel to any wine destination you desire. I’m paying with my imaginary black American Express card. So, to where would you travel and why? From this fun exercise, students get a glimpse of their fellow students’ interests and can pick up a conversation.
Sadly, the pandemic has crimped what used to make for a productive development of connections, networks and team-building. I used to tell students to head up to Corkbuzz at 13 E 13th St. where my colleague, Laura Maniec Fiorvanti MS, has been incredibly generous in hosting wine students and running them through blind tastings. Her team is well-trained and knows exactly why the students visit: to figure out for themselves why this one is Sangiovese and not Nebbiolo; or why this one is Loire Chenin Blanc and not Alsatian Pinot Gris.
Despite the current limitations of social gathering, our January 2021 daytime class, which graduated from the program this week, showed delightful creativity in pursuit of developing their tasting skills. A schedule was developed wherein two students each day would bring in thoroughly disguised bottles of wine for distribution into various vessels or containers. A Zoom call would be arranged and in the safety of each student's own home, the blind tasting would proceed!
I, of course, have conceits about the program I teach, one of which is that a student’s life is forever changed – and improved – by the concerted focus on the senses of smell and taste that the program requires. The enthusiasm with which this class met the challenge of exercising and developing their tasting skill outside of class is a testament to their ingenuity and esprit de corps. I hope the class has made them as happy as they made me.
Begin your wine tasting journey in Intensive Sommelier Training.