Congratulations to Kevin Day, IWS, for passing the Italian Wine Scholar exam with highest honors!
I have always been a storyteller, whether through my creative writing or through my photography. Wine has always been an enjoyable pursuit for me, but I really began to understand its richness and depth on a trip to Piedmont in 2012. I began to shift my writing focus towards wine, and started a blog called Opening a Bottle. This led to several opportunities, and by 2017, I was ready to shed the “blogger” moniker and become a serious wine writer. I now write for SevenFifty Daily, an important publication for beverage alcohol industry in America. And Opening a Bottle has completely transformed. It is now a popular online wine magazine centered on mostly Italian and French wines, with an audience of nearly 100,000 readers per year, and I’m seeking a contributor or two to spice up the perspectives. It has also given me a platform to embrace my photography. I get as much of a thrill taking a candid portrait of a winemaker, or a beautiful hillside vineyard in morning light, as I do tasting a back vintage. The connection between the land and the wine fascinates me, and photography paired with writing really sheds a new perspective on it for me.
My wine education has been pretty intensive due to travel, winemaker interviews and winery visits, as well as the occasional industry tasting here in Denver. Being able to ask winemakers questions directly has been hugely important in my education, but there were a lot of gaps that I wanted to fill. This was my first formal program and I’m very grateful that I completed it.
I will likely take a small break and then embark on the French Wine Scholar program. I might pursue a master-level program for Champagne, Alsace or — if the Wine Scholar Guild creates it — Piedmont. Let’s hope they do.
Italian wines are my first love in the wine world, and I wanted to write about them with more depth and a better understanding of how it all connects. I thought about WSET, but a fellow wine writer brought up an interesting perspective: She is a French Wine Scholar, and has earned a master-level certification on Provence. She said something to the effect of “I like how you write your tasting notes and wine descriptions. WSET will teach you a systematic approach, and it is likely that you won’t describe wine the same way again.” That meant a lot to me. I want to connect to average people just as much as wine professionals. I don’t want my wine descriptions to sound like Consumer Reports. I’m tired of hearing every wine described as “medium-plus” acidity. It tells me nothing. That’s not the WSET method is without value — it clearly is — but this felt like the right first step for the storyteller in me.
Furthermore, the history, culture, geology, geography and process of wine is what interests me the most. I also don’t have any interest in spirits. All of this pointed toward the Italian Wine Scholar self-study program. My only problem now is that I’m having a hard time writing as well about non-Italian wines! The context, the frame of reference, the level of expertise on Italian wine … it is all so much deeper now. It is a big reason that I will likely pursue the French Wine Scholar program in the near future. I think it would greatly benefit Opening a Bottle’s editorial.