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  • Writer's pictureWine Minx Annie

I got in! Ahhhhhh...

Not long ago I opened an email that said, "Congratulations..." and I immediately wanted to cheer and poop. It's been a whirlwind ever since, basically trying to figure out HOW to study for this monster and getting all my ducks in a row.

This is a self-study program. But there are resources available, like Course Days, which normally happen for a couple of days in locations all over the globe (conveniently one session is held in NYC!) but, of course, it’s the Covid-Times... so everything is online. This is actually great for me, as the information is broken up over a longer period of time so it’s easier to absorb and implement.

Many of the Course Day webinars have been really informative: how to write a good essay, or how to transition from Diploma-style tasting notes to MW notes that can better help you answer exam questions. There are also few smaller individual sessions live on zoom with a handful of other students, and I just had my first, where a sample essay we all sent in on the same topic got reviewed. One takeaway I loved: there is no set answer or way you must structure your essay. One takeaway I was less psyched about: a number of aspects of my essay I thought were sufficient or appropriate... weren’t.

Listening to my fellow students speak, it seemed to me I have found myself in a class of 150 of the smartest valedictorians from around the globe. No one’s essay was perfect, but it was obvious, this truly is TOP LEVEL SMARTS here. Immediately I started obsessing about all the areas in which I feel deficient. (Not out loud on the zoom, thank goodness!!) And there are many.

I recall an MW saying once, “You will feel like a fraud at many points on this journey.” You know — that everyone else belongs there and you actually have no business being in the program. I knew that probably would happen, but I didn’t think I’d feel like a fraud so many times in the first few months!!

Of course, I have to give myself a break. There is a HUGE learning curve transitioning from the kind of studying and material that was sufficient for Diploma to the critical thinking, analytical depth, and detailed examples we need for MW. And Diploma was broken up into 6 Units while for MW, ALL THE INFO IS NEEDED, ALL THE TIME.

Now, I did participate a lot in the zoom discussion, and a few times earned praise from the MW leading it. I relished the essay feedback, because one of my strengths is absorbing constructive criticism and improving. And he did say some good stuff about my essay too! But my nature is to hone in on the deficiencies. Sigh.

Since course days are online, the practice tastings also are virtual. They sent us 24 tiny bottles of blind wines, and we’re supposed to sit a mock exam under timed conditions, answering questions about them. Because of the sheer intimidation of the undertaking, and my weird schedule right now, I decided to break them up. And I’m SOOOOO glad I did! Otherwise I’d be waving bye-bye to the program and jumping off the short pier of despair right now.

My first 4 wines were the same white grape variety from different regions. For that portion of an actual exam, I’d have 45 minutes to taste them, assess their flavors, structure, quality, what winemaking techniques had been employed, and so on. I needed to say what the variety was, where they were from, talk about quality, commercial appeal, ability to age... all with reasons WHY that I deduced from the glass.

So I set my timer, and began. My gut instinct on the variety was, I feel, spot on. But my supporting reasons seemed too flimsy to me. I mentioned typicity of flavors and structure and winemaking for that grape (or appropriate lack thereof) but quickly ran out of things to say. And as for what region each was from... TOTAL CRAP SHOOT. I mean, I justified my reasons (again, perhaps not well enough, but I tried!) but I wouldn’t be surprised if I got every single one wrong.

Now, you don’t have to get everything spot on to pass the actual exam!!!!! (And, interestingly, people have failed a paper if they DID get it right, but didn’t justify WHY well enough!) But it was almost as if a buzzer was clanging “Fraud! Fraud! Fraud!” in my brain the whole time.

I was going to have a “dry day” that night and not pop a bottle to actually DRINK, but after I went 20 minutes over my time and still felt crappy about what I wrote, I grabbed this cool skin contact Moschofilero sipper I’d found and glug-glugged a healthy pour in my glass.

I know this is a PROCESS. I am not sitting an assessment exam for seven more months, and the actual MW exam for a year after that. THERE’S TIME. But I’ve never been more painfully aware just HOW much information I’m expected to have at my fingertips that I do not currently possess.

Ultimately this remains a very positive experience, and I’m so ridiculously thrilled to be in the program. Seriously, I’m a pig in shit right now. Painful, nerve-wracking, intimidating, overwhelming shit, but I’m wallowing with a big grin on my face.

Stay tuned...

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