Earlier this year I decided to get a certificate from the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) to add to my credentials. I had mixed feelings about it because I believe wine knowledge is best gained by practical experience: I also knew that I had gaps in my knowledge that could be best addressed (initially) with a course or two. My major gap was French wines.
I made the decision years ago to specialize in New World wines (what I call re-emerging markets*). The reasons for my decision: 1) Napa, Sonoma and surrounding areas are my backyard; 2) I’m attracted to the Southern Hemisphere countries; 3) French wine knowledge is unfortunately yet irrefutably an affectation associated with wine snobs; and 4) I find mavericks more interesting than traditionalists.
In three months of classes, I got a crash course in French wine regions that required memorization to pass the test, their history of winemaking, a few cool anecdotes about monks and best of all, that there is an inkling of modernism in the French wine market and I must go there to fully understand it. (I’ve been to Paris but that’s another story.)
Right after I graduated, Michelle McCue, a Burbank, CA publicist sent me three bottles of Paul Mas’ French wines to try. Paul Mas, a recipient of many international accolades, could be the poster child for my point of view–take old vines, history, winemaking integrity, and deliver balanced, approachable wines that can be enjoyed now. Go one step further (which he does) and print the grapes on the back label so wine lovers do not have to know every Château and region in France to know what’s in the bottle. My review of his wines.
*My definition of re-emerging wine markets is regions that have hundreds of years of wine making history but are just now getting positive attention from the mainstream global wine market.
**The picture is Château de Conas in Pézanas where the Mas family still lives. It was originally built over 1,000 years ago.