In studying for theory exams last year, I created an incredible spreadsheet. This sheet had pages allocated to each exam paper, each divided into sections according to the themes likely to come up. I populated the cells with real-life examples relating to each theme, aiming to draw on a broad range of sources from bulk to fine wine, across all continents, and covering a range of styles. Looking back at this sheet I can see why I managed to pass these exams first time. I did a LOT of work, and the spreadsheet was the result.
So, as my second attempt at the tasting exams draws nearer and my panic levels reach a dangerously high level, I have once again taken refuge in my beloved Excel.
The key to passing the MW Practical exam is not only tasting accurately, but arguing persuasively. If I put my nose in a glass of wine and recognise it as a Chianti Classico, hooray! Good news, of course, but not enough to pass the exam. I need to be able to state precisely what it is about the wine that makes it Chianti Classico and not Brunello di Montalcino – or even basic Chianti.
Another key thing about the MW practical exam is the immense time pressure. You have two hours and fifteen minutes to taste, assess and answer 25 marks’ worth of questions on 12 wines. So, it really helps if you don’t have to waste precious time pondering over how to construct a logical, persuasive argument on the Chianti-Classico-ness of a wine.
Enter spreadsheet! Over the next two months I will be filling this (already frankly enormous) sheet with those crucial arguments, in an effort to ensure that come June I am fully confident not only of Chianti-Classico-ness but also Barossa-Shiraz-ness, Fino-Sherry-ness and Marlborough-Sauvignon-Blanc-ness.