The Hard Road To Wine Mastery
Thousands of dollars, thousands of hours and thousands of glasses of wine later, MRCA’s Sales Dude, Cam Pinkney, has entered the upper echelons of the world’s wine experts as an accredited Sommelier, with an eye to becoming a Master of Wine. This is his journey.
My wine adventure began nine years ago as a simple notion – I wanted to know a little more about wine so I could better conduct tastings for my staff and converse with guests in the restaurant where I was working. But the world of wine quickly grabbed a hold of me like a wild vine grasping for sunlight and launched me on an incredible journey.
As a student ambassador for the Hospitality Management program at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) in Calgary, I had the opportunity to visit Australia, where we visited numerous wineries and hotels. I was hooked.
As my thirst for wine knowledge grew, I eventually found myself enrolling in courses through the International Sommelier Guild (ISG). The Guild is headquartered in Canada, with an expanding list of host schools here, in the US and around the world. I earned my accreditation as a Sommelier and became a member of the International Sommelier Guild.
A Sommelier is a trained and knowledgeable wine professional that helps guests make educated choices from a wine list, based on varietal, price, and the food that will accompany the wine.
But as it turns out, gaining my Sommelier accreditation was only the beginning of my journey. Tackling programs offered through the Wine, Spirit & Education Trust (WSET) and Court of Master Sommeliers (CMS) became the next challenges for me to tackle in my never-ending pursuit of wine knowledge.
A lot of hard work, and a few hundred gasses of wine later, I had passed the CMS Level 1 and I was on to the WSET Level 4 Diploma program, which I started in 2014 and hope to complete next year. To put the WSET program in perspective, there are only 7,000 people in the world who have the Level 4 diploma
The depth of knowledge required at this level is so vast and so specific it literally covers the entire world of world of wine, right down to the soils, varietals, viticulture, vinification, and the laws of each wine-producing nation.
With the help of my fellow classmates, mentors all over the world in the business of wine, and a detailed tasting grid provided by WSET, my palate has been trained to identify acid, tannin, fruits, quality, wine making techniques, the region of origin and sometimes the vintage for hundreds of wines.
Am I right all of the time when tasting? Definitely not, but come exam time in 2016, I’ll need to correctly identify 12 wines in a blind tasting and complete a three-hour theory exam. I hope my experience so far, and the 25 hours of study I’m putting in a week, will pay off.
When I complete the diploma program next year, I will complete the French Wine Society Master Alsace and Bordeaux programs. Then, my ambitious eyes are set on the completing the Master of Wine program to become one of just over 370 people in the world to hold the title “Master of Wine”.
Despite the many sacrifices I have made personally thus far, not to mention the tens of thousands of dollars spent during my education on books and wine alone, I wouldn’t trade it in for anything. I have made life-long friends and developed a mature appreciation for the support of family and friends.
In the meantime, I’m looking forward to the next glass of wine, the next “ah ha” moment understanding wine regions of the world and continuing to host tastings and seminars.
Cam Pinkney - Sommelier