Congratulations to Kevin Day, FWS, for passing the French Wine Scholar exam with highest honors!
I am first and foremost a wine writer, and the editor-in-chief of my own wine publication centered on French and Italian wine called Opening a Bottle, which has around 180,000 readers annually. Inspired by what I learned through the Italian and French Wine Scholar programs, I decided to start hosting informal virtual tastings with friends to share what I’ve learned, and to just have something to do that is social over the pandemic. Since September, I have shifted this to more formal sessions via my website, Eventbrite and Zoom. Ticket sales are helping to raise revenue for other contributors to write for Opening a Bottle, so I can broaden my scope beyond France and Italy.
I fell into a passion for wine like most people: through a transformative travel experience. For me it was first in southern Tuscany in 2008 at a horizontal tasting in a wine bar in Montepulciano of multiple vintages of Poderi Sanguineto. It was there that the lightbulb went off: that each year’s conditions could be tasted in the glass. But things really took off four years later when my wife and I returned to Italy with two close friends and spent a week in Barolo. Talk about immersive learning! At the Barolo museum, they offered a comparative tasting of wines from Barolo’s different soil types, and that made me realize that wine can be the ultimate storyteller of nature and humankind’s interaction with it. I also realized that I needed to take my travel writing/travel photography aspirations and apply them to wine. I launched Opening a Bottle shortly thereafter, and have devoted much of professional life since to wine writing.
I passed the Italian Wine Scholar Program with Highest Honors in 2019, and then the French Wine Scholar Program with Highest Honors in 2020. I gravitated to these two programs because they have a strong cultural/historical perspective, which I enjoy, but also they were very specific. I’m looking to fully know certain aspects of wine, and this is certainly the case after completing these programs. I also didn’t want to lose my voice as a writer when it comes to tasting notes and describing wine. I have a bit of a personalized approach, and I didn’t feel a need to change that with some of the other wine study programs which standardize the wine tasting approach.
I am going to take a break for now. What I really need to do is learn Italian and some French. I have a desire to execute a book project after the pandemic, and it’ll require travel to some off-the-beaten path wine regions in Italy. Knowing Italian will be essential to pull it off.
The FWS program has played a key role in establishing the greater context of French wine — why certain historic events led to the wines we have today, why the geography has dictated certain practices here and there. It’s a more holistic understanding of French wine, rather than the cobbled together understanding I had from hundreds of different sources.
But on a purely consumer level, I am also excited to taste French wine now with this education as a backdrop. I’m having a great time exploring Corsican wines this month, and hope to hunt down some wines from Southwest France after the holidays. There is still a lot to explore. The journey never truly ends!