I’ve had some thoughts running through my head lately…and it has to do with something I recently learned. Sometimes book knowledge isn’t everything, it’s that “life experience” that teaches you. And sometimes, it’s the opposite. We learn by it being taught to us, then exercise that teaching in our careers, jobs and daily lives.
As I was going through the motions of tasting a wine, it was just very “boozy” and the alcohol was very overwhelming. There was nothing there to nose or taste other than the overwhelming nose-burning, throat searing alcohol. It was suggested by one of my fellow tasters (who I will say respectfully, is older than me) that the wine was too warm. By cooling the wine slightly, the alcohol would be pushed to the background, and the flavours would even out. (By the way, this worked nicely.) I had learned something new! I didn’t know that, and I piped up that we had not learned that in school! To my astonishment, he responded (quite curtly, I might add) that this was something I would “never learn in a book”. And continued to say that someone who comes in and announces that they are a Sommelier or Wine Steward, or whatever other title you want to use, means nothing to him and he doesn’t really care. I was astonished (and to be honest, slightly angry…no, a LOT angry!) In my mind, with that one statement, my education in this business of wine, had just been devalued.
Don’t get me wrong! I appreciate the wine enthusiast, the aficionado, and the “guy who’s been tasting wine all his life”! They have a wealth of knowledge to pass on, and I hope they do pass it on! Please! Share with me what you know! I am always willing and eager to learn new little factoids about every area of life, not just about wine. But, there is something to be said about one who is “educated” and who has a piece of paper to prove that they CAN do what they say they can do. For me, it has to do with being competent.
I love this word. During my days as a Compliance Instructor in the Transportation industry, I preached this word again and again and again, ad nauseam. I could spout this definition off in my sleep. Why? Because it was important. Not just to this industry, but to ANY industry, and I’d like to illustrate it, for the wine industry.
Competent – adequately qualified, suitably trained, and sufficiently experienced with a minimal level of supervision.
Webster’s says this: com·pe·tent- having suitable or sufficient skill, knowledge, experience, etc., for some purpose; properly qualified
Notice that you can’t have one without the other…suitable or sufficient skill, knowledge, training and experience doesn’t have to come in an educational institution, BUT, being properly qualified DOES. In both definitions, they are listed together. Education and life experience are interconnected in this definition.
When I was an instructor, I carried my certificates with me. It was important enough to me, that if someone asked if I was qualified to instruct this particular class, that I could prove it to them. I was perfectly capable of delivering the content and had experience doing it, but I was also qualified to do so. My intention is the same as a Wine Educator. Yes, I could tell you about all my experiences and what I’ve learned through them. Yes, I could share with you facts about different regions, grapes, soils and climates. All learned through tasting, experiencing and living life. But perhaps knowing that I was qualified to do so, would give me more credibility. Am I going to carry copies of my certificates with me when I do home tastings? Absolutely. Because I want people to know that I’m serious about what I do. I’m serious about sharing my passion and enthusiasm of wine with you. But I’m also serious enough about it be credible. And that to me, means education.