Wednesday, September 7, 2016

French Wine Scholar

Sporting the French Wine Scholar pin
Right after taking my last exam for the WSET Diploma - Fortified Wines - I crammed for and sat the French Wine Scholar (FWS) exam, offered by the Wine Scholar Guild. I always seek to delve deeper into France, as Burgundy is my first (wine) love. I'd signed up for the exam nearly a year ago and hadn't thought about it as I continued to prepare for my Sparkling and Fortified wine exams for Diploma. Somehow I had the wherewithal to realize, in late June, that I'd have to take the exam asap or pay the fee all over again. Of course, I discovered this about 10 days before the one possible exam date before my 1 year deadline. In a typical fit of motivation driven by a challenge, I decided to take the exam.


Technically, I'd been preparing for this exam indirectly through my WSET Diploma studies and through my work in the industry. That said, the FWS exam definitely requires one to know more in breadth and depth. The ensuing week witnessed nonstop cramming, so much that I even studied in my sleep! Unfortunately this meant I wasn't very well rested, but at least I was productive. This happens to me every so often before exams, but this time I literally tested myself systematically through Southwest France (FYI, Iroulegay is the only Basque appellation!). However, I knew I was really going nuts when I found myself randomly reciting the red grape name Fer Servadou in a jingle-like manner: "Fer Servadou, don't mind if I do!" 

Possibly the most memorable part about studying for the FWS exam was discovering a passage in the text that likened the creation of the trench-like geography of Alsace to the rising and falling of a soufflé, but caused by pressure instead of by heat. Only the French would find a perfect connection between a prehistoric geographical phenomenon and the creation of a culinary treat! I call it "The Alsace Soufflé." C'est merveilleux! 

I am happy to report that I passed the French Wine Scholar Exam, with highest honors. I am relieved! The Wine Scholar Guild asked me to answer some interview questions, and posted my informal essay on their site as a feature about recent top scorers. I am humbled to be honored thusly. Writing this essay was a wonderful way for me to think about why I pursue my wine studies, and about what I have gained in the journey thus far. I invite you to catch a glimpse of the motivation below, or on the Wine Scholar Guild site.

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Congratulations to Susan R Lin, FWS for passing the French Wine Scholar exam with the highest honors! 
About Susan:
I previously worked in high tech, much of it at Google, managing international search and maps quality programs. I'd been fascinated with wines and their study ever since I saw the beautiful labels on bottles of Bordeaux and Napa Cabernet on my grandfather’s shelf as a child, and took my research further on my own since then. I eventually decided to enroll in formal study through the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET), to give myself an academic framework through which I could focus my efforts. After I achieved WSET Advanced certification, I was recruited by an esteemed study partner. I am thrilled to be in the wine industry!
My joy is to bring people the wines that they love, and even more so, to get people to try wines that I believe will delight them, but which they hadn’t previously heard of or thought to try. It’s about creating a wonderful experience for people through wine, and I believe that is best accomplished through deep academic learning and lived experience. By taking what I’ve learned via my studies with FWS and WSET to my own explorations and sharing and learning from others, I hope to build upon my base of knowledge to bring more delight to my customers, partners, and friends.

I recently earned my WSET Level 4 Diploma after a two year journey since obtaining the WSET Level 3 Advanced certification. My studies in WSET provided me a very strong academic base of knowledge in viticulture, the vinification process, and of all the different wines around the world. What led me to the FWS program is that while I enjoy exploring all wines, my heart lies with wines in France ­ Burgundy being my first and greatest love! I knew that the more I learned, the more I would be able to appreciate the important and subtle nuances that make French wines unique in each their own way.

I personally am most happy about the breadth and depth of the materials in the FWS program. As the program is focused specifically on France, I was able to concentrate on information not necessarily covered in other programs, for example the geological events that led to the land formations of each wine region that influence the terroir, and aspects of socio­economic and cultural history that contribute to the style of the wines today. The focus on every wine region and on the specific appellation requirements have given me an enormously deeper knowledge and appreciation of France’s wine heritage and modern wine industry.
The more I learn, the more questions I have and the more I want to continue learning! The FWS program has added more fuel to my desire to further my wine studies. I look forward to the possibilities, including those afforded by the Wine Scholar Guild. For example, I could benefit from the Italy and Spain programs, or I could delve even deeper into the French wine regions through the Master­ Level programs. I will always seek to learn, whether through self study or through institutional programs.

What I have gained through the FWS program complements my WSET studies extremely well. Focusing more deeply on France has built upon and expanded the knowledge I have accumulated through my WSET Diploma studies as well as my experiences in the industry.

I have recently been accepted into the Master of Wine Study Programme and am excited to embark on this journey. The FWS program has undoubtedly helped to prepare me for this new level of study.
The FWS program has already allowed me to further my passion for wine tremendously, just through studying for the exam. Even though it was stressful at times to remember all the important pieces of information such as different grape varieties (and synonyms!), soils, and regulations for each appellation, I was thrilled every day because of what I was learning. Wines that used to merely be names to me have come alive. What I enjoy in the glass is enhanced remarkably by the knowledge of its heritage, place, and history. In preparing for the FWS exam, I have learned much about the character of French wines. This, to me, is invaluable. This is what I seek to share with everyone who has any interest in wine: The story and the experience, brought to life in beautiful liquid.

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