To somm or not to somm? That is the question.

Verdicchio at Le Volpi e L’Uva

In addition to my ongoing quest to improve my Italian, I have recently set another goal for myself: “mastering” Italian wine. Vino is a fundamental component of daily Italian life, and there’s oodles to learn!  Now I know that “master” is a very strong word and yes, I do realize that after years of study and practice, I will be nowhere close to knowing everything in my attempt to achieve so-called masterdom. But that’s not going to stop me from trying.

I do consume a decent amount of wine here, but I don’t know nearly as much as I would like to know. While drinking a glass of Verdicchio with my friend Gina at Le Volpi e L’Uva in Florence this past March, I was trying to discern the nose and I had no idea what I was smelling. Gina grabs my glass, takes a whiff and says, “white flowers,” to which the guy behind the counter responds “very good,” complete with a friendly smile. Honestly, I would never have guessed that. I had/have no clue how “white flowers” smell–aren’t there several varieties?

So, with the wine-mastering idea in the back of my mind since then, I decided it was time to get started and have taken an autodidact approach. Determined to conquer the essentials of Italy’s wine regions one by one, I started with the Alpine-situated Valle d’Aosta, and among other things, I learned that its tiered vineyards are the highest in Europe, reaching an altitude of almost 4,000 feet. I have since moved on to Piemonte, a bear of a region, and am now reading up on Barolo while trying to retain not only everything I have learned about the former, but also Italian vocabulary and grammer rules.

However, there’s only so much you can learn on your own and I think I would like to make this commitment official by enrolling in the AIS Sommelier Course. I didn’t make this decision overnight…I have been thinking about it for months. It won’t be easy; the courses are all in Italian and while I think I will be able to get by, I have no doubt it my mind that it will be challenging and at times, beyond frustrating.  But what’s life without our challenges and frustrations?

It seems that every other person I meet is a certified sommelier and I’m not succumbing to “peer pressure” or looking to jump on a bandwagon so to speak or anything like that, but anyone who knows me can vouch that I have enjoyed tasting and learning about wine since my waitressing days, and I also think it’s safe to say that I know a little more about wine than the average person. Or at least I like to think I do. (Please note that I’m well aware that “the average person” is a subjective term!)

It almost seems like sommelier certification is a rite of passage here and one that would not be to my personal detriment, but rather to that of my wallet’s as the course comes with a hefty price tag. So now I have a decision to make. Will the end justify the means? I think so as the credential will only help me. Oh decisions, decisions. Sigh.

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