Your Somm Is On Fiiiiiiiiire…

Vinted on June 13, 2012 binned in going pro, wine 2.0

Make that, your Somm is under fire.

Fiiiiiiiiirrrreeeeeeee… Anyway…

Last week I was guest on the Keeper Collective’s weekly twitter guest Q&A wine event, called #SommChat, part of their Somms Under Fire wine competition brand umbrella. This prompted quite a comments coming my way, most of which can be summed up in the following imaginary-but-wholly-representative re-enactment style on-line conversation:

Peeps: Joe, I didn’t know you were a Somm??

Me: I’m not!

Despite the fact that I am one of the few non-Sommelier guests to appear on #SommChat, I had a fantastic time fielding the questions from those who tuned in to attend last week, some of which were provocative and really got me thinking, particularly those that asked about recommendations for building up a palate, and learning more about wine.

The results of the reflective thinking? The deeper I’ve gone into the pro wine world, the less important I feel palate-building and wine appreciation tips really are, which I suppose on some level seems ironic but as we gain experience in any area, one likes to think that we can come back to basics having turned that into a modicum of wisdom, and wisdom seems to be telling me that it’s far, far more important for people to learn deeply what it is about a wine that really turns them on or off, and focus on learning their own palates and preferences first before thinking about developing a palate that would be used for critical assessment. The former opens the door to the wonder and magic and pleasure of wine; the latter is work, a job, often fun but sometimes a real working-stiff-like slog.

Anyway… You can check out the entire #SommChat convo from the twitter feed last week at, and I recommend tuning in to their future events (they’ve got a couple of Master Somms lined up for the next series, which should be fun) on Wednesdays at 11AM Central Time.






  • Jason Phelps

    Palate building and enhancing one's appreciation for wine shouldn't lose focus as you delve deeper. If it does I say that is a warning bell that something is wrong.

    As you clearly come back around to, drinking what you like isn't a fixed idea so being able to discern why you like certain types of wines and knowing them when you come in contact with them over a life of tasting requires continuous palate exercises. We should be reinforcing that as uber wine lovers. If folks want to make the jump into it as a job that is a whole other issue, but any focused time spent before then will absolutely aid them.


    • 1WineDude

      Jason – like anything else, if you slow down, pay attention, and are receptive you will get better at it & enjoy it more. For me, I still do that and love that. The ancillary bit is then assessing the wine critically, which isn't actually anywhere near as fun – not even remotely! – as drinking and tasting it consciously (& passing those experiences onto people trough writing, for example, which is also a total blast). The question I think is how, when and why the focus is applied. For me, it's when it's done critically where it's far less fun. And I certainly wouldn't encourage most people to train themselves taste too critically; I'd urge them to instead taste consciously!

  • @MauricesCru

    You were pretty amazing on #sommchat. It was my first time taking part and I was impressed how you could answer so many questions at one time. The basics is where it's at. Your approach to wine should be the direction for more somms. Many get too involved in trying to distinguish themselves among the rest. They strive to know more, taste more and find the more obscure wine than the somm next door. In the end they loose site that wine is fermented juice, and meant to be drunk, treated as an art class not a spelling bee.I hope you make it back on #sommchat.

    • 1WineDude

      @MauricesCru – thanks for that. I've got to admit, I think that Somms get. Bad rep for that, it could just be that they're heeling out over the obscure stuff and just want to share it with the world. I'm sure the wanna-be stuff does come into play sometimes for some of them, but my guess is that is a really small percentage of the whole. Or maybe I've just been lucky in having met great ones? :)

  • Adam Ray

    If you ever make it out to Santa Barbara, California you should check out EOS Transportation for their great Santa Barbara Wine Tours at I bet you would get a kick out of some of the great tasting wine & winery's in beautiful sunny California.

    • 1WineDude

      Adam – I'll be in SB this Summer, no idea what transportation they are arranging for me out there, though.

  • laragazzadevino

    my sentiments exactly! After 10 years in the wine industry and having led wine education courses of my own in the past, I find the things I care about less and less are what we're 'supposed' to know as professional tasters and more and more about talking less about exactly what it is we are tasting and just drinking it damnit! Sure I enjoy carefully selecting a bottle I think will pair well with a particular dish and then reveling in that pairing when successful. I enjoy introducing friends to wines they never thought they'd have an affinity for (think 'I don't like white wine' types) by opening the right bottle for them that I know will fit their palate. But when my friends and contacts email me, text, me, or call me with questions on how to 'develop' their palates or enroll in a pricey wine education course for which copious notes and swirling and sniffing and repeat… are necessary I advise them to just get out and drink more and different types of wines and ask questions about what they are drinking. It's as simple as that to to learn about what it is that makes your palate happy. Drink, ask questions about what you are drinking, and store it in the memory banks so you can more successfully describe and find what you want in future. You don't need a sommelier certificate for that… and I'd even argue the laborious studying of the subject, when unnecessary, sucks a bit of enjoyment out of it

    • 1WineDude

      laragazzadevino – EXACTLY. In fact, I'm going through a round of CA Chards right now to take to Mrs. Dudette's 40th b-day dinner date, and I keep coming back to “just tell me which one you LIKE the most, it's your birthday, dammit!” :-)

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