Just 134 more things….

At the end of last year I did something rather whimsical. Or at least I thought it was.

I’ve had my eye on the Vinitaly International Academy certification course. It’s basically the most intensive, complex and thus prestigious course you can take if you want to specialise in Italian wines. It’s five days of lectures and tasting that culminates in an exam which if you pass allows you to call yourself an Italian Wine Ambassador. Ever since I first heard about it I’ve wanted to apply, but I missed the deadline last year by a few weeks and having just started my diploma figured I’d dodged a bullet.

During the Christmas break I discovered that applications were being accepted again and I thought “why not?!” Then I realised they only take around 50 candidates a year. Which actually made me feel better. I could apply, with no pressure as there’s no way I’d be selected, get feedback on my application ahead of next year and not have to worry about adding another really serious pressure to my WSET diploma and full-time job filled life. So on December 27th whilst my husband was washing up, I put together my application, sent it off, and then for a month I sort of forgot about it. I mean, not really, I still manically refreshed my email, but in the “waiting for confirmation of my rejection” sort of way.

Then on Monday January 30th I received the email. Congratulating me on my acceptance to the course. Ah….

This means that in April I’m flying to Verona to learn about 134 key grape varieties in Italy. Two months before my diploma finals. What could possibly go wrong? I’m hoping that you’ll join me in this space along the way to find out.

Because, Wednesday. 

A cocktail before bed. 

Because it’s Wednesday and my husband worked from home and we had a long evening together playing board games and enjoying each other’s company. 

Because celebrating the little things, like being able to start our evening at 6pm not eight thirty, is one of my favourite things about how we do things. 

And, because tomorrow I have another four hours of revision to tackle and I’m in denial! 

It comes in threes

So on Saturday morning I made quite the impression on my work colleagues. I fell hook, line and sinker for the traditional company April fool, and advertised the fact with an email to the entire team. Worse? I didn’t even realise until a customer pointed out the joke to me whilst a manager looked on snickering.

Me: 0 – April: 1

Half an hour later I mis-read the rota and almost caused chaos trying to move staff members around when I didn’t need to. Fortunately I caught myself just before the snafu was made completely public…..only one of the directors and the same manager mocking me this time.

Me: 0 – April: 2

Then, the crowning moment; tasting through a new potential range of wines I gestured mid-swirl and threw the entire contents of the glass on the floor narrowly missing the others.

Me: 0 – April: 3.

After today I have a few days off. I’m going to hide at home, avoid sharp objects and hope I can get through the rest of the week unscathed.  How’s your April started? Please tell me others fell for the Fools and I’m not alone!

Work in progress

Almost halfway through the month and I’ve suddenly realised that I was supposed to have made resolutions, goals, objectives for the year ahead. Oops!

Last year I made two rather large goals. The first, to cut myself some slack, the second was to spend some time figuring stuff out. Well, 2015 certainly stepped up to greet my challenge. It was definitely a “game of two halves” as the saying goes. In the first six months I had three different jobs, the first I left due to choice, the second due to redundancy. Fortunately I’m still in the third and it’s been a total game changer.

When I was made redundant (the second time around for me), I decided it was time for some serious regime change. I needed to do the two things I’d promised myself in January. Cut myself some slack about the situation, and then really, seriously sit down and consider what I wanted. Not just in the next few months, but long term. I spent over a week just in thought about what was next, and more importantly, why it would be next. Taking that time was one of the best things I did last year. As a result I’m now in a job that I genuinely love and am working toward the future I want both professionally and personally. Like I said, game changer.

When I saw this post by Tracy I was struck by the third photo in particular, as it sums up so well how this year and last year fit together. Last year I had expectations, and this year I’m going to continue to build the foundations. As a result all my “intentions” for this year will be small. Little things that fit together to be the building blocks to solidify the bigger picture.

All I have to do now is figure out what those things will be!

Peaks and troughs

I don’t often talk about work on here, (unless it’s to commiserate about having once again found myself out of a job!) but I had a day last week which I found rather amusing, and thought would illustrate a bit of truth about working in the wine industry.

I should have know that this day would be unlike any other as it started with an hour of in-depth cigar training. Not something I ever thought my career would give me, and not something I have any experience off, except a brief visit to a cigar museum whilst in Cuba when I was actually counting down the minutes until we could start drinking rum in their bar, rather than paying attention to the different sizes, strengths and smoke lengths. IMG_3908

As we were packing up from this session a colleague rocked up proudly toting four bottles that he had enjoyed the previous evening. Very kindly he’d saved a small portion of each bottle for us to try and I was incredibly excited. Tasting wine never gets old for me, and working in an industry that is constantly changing and evolving you can never know everything. So it’s taste, taste, taste to learn, learn, learn. Your palate is a muscle and it needs practice to be at its best. Already I’m discovering that my palate is vastly improved from when I started out, but that it has a long way to go. Which is why I’ll never turn down the opportunity for a taste of something new. (Perhaps one day I’ll talk about the difference between tasting and drinking, there is a difference, honest!).

I sipped and sloshed, and spat my way through the four wines, desperately trying to commit them to my sense memory and fighting to pick out the nuances of each. It’s not everyday that you get to try such exclusive and expensive wines. It was a wonderful start to the day.

But it was all downhill from there!

It’s not all cigar training and tasting impressive wine. I continued my morning by washing up around 100 tasting glasses from the weekend. Whilst I rinsed and polished my way through a mountain of ISOs, another colleague unearthed a selection of samples that had been conveniently forgotten about. IMG_3906

These were the antithesis of our mornings offering. Foil-topped plastic glasses with detachable stems in “white” “rose” and “red”. Just peeling back the tops made us nervous despite the rep having assured us that they were “actually very good” (the “actually” says it all I think.) Duty bound we poured a small amount of the white into tasting glasses, and begin the swirl. We soon stopped as the smell wafted towards us. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a collection of wine professionals spit so quickly.  Although the red did elicit the high praise of “well, that’s borderline below average” I can say with certainty that these particular wines won’t be on offer to our customers.

And so my glamourous wine life is revealed. Whilst those hundred pound bottles do appear from time to time, it’s mostly washing glasses, shifting boxes and tasting things that are “borderline below average.” When I got my new job I went out and bought three new dresses to bring some glitz to my everyday life. So far I’ve only worn one and I very nearly ruined it when a colleague smashed a bottle of rosé in my vicinity! The reality is that you need comfortable smart casual clothing, shoes that won’t hurt your feet after 12 hours of standing, and a sense of humour for when you’re shown the plastic glasses with foil lids!