Congratulations to Tim Parkhouse, FWS for passing successfully the French Wine Scholar exam with the highest honors!
''I am a huge Francophile! I got into wine at a very young age. We have French family friends in Biarritz and as children, they would insist on us drinking watered down wine at table. Wine is also an integral part of the British Sunday Roast, so culturally I had a broad exposure from a very young age. I am also a passionate surfer and we would travel down to Hossegor in France every summer. I started studying French seriously at age 7 and due to our constant French trips the language came extremely naturally to me, so this was the obvious choice for my study path at university. I was awarded a BA in French from the University of Wales Swansea. This was the result of a 4 year course including a year-long, full immersion exchange program with the Université Michel de Montaigne III in Pessac, Bordeaux. This is where I really started to develop the ‘wine bug’. I have fond memories of traversing the Médoc in search of both wine and waves.
After a 5-year stint in the music industry and meeting the woman of my dreams, a Polynesian dancer from California, whilst on tour with my band in China (That is a story for another time) we settled in Dana Point. Having arrived on American shores, I had no idea how I could use my French Degree. Fortunately, we lived next door to a Ritz-Carlton, with a wine room called ‘Eno’. This was a superb place to grow and the company put me through the first two levels of the CMS program.
We had kids, so I wanted a more family-friendly schedule and started working with a French wine importer, specialising in the wines of Burgundy, Champagne and the Loire Valley. During my tenure I was lucky enough to go on buying trips to France with highlights such as visits to Clos des Lambrays, Mugneret-Gibourg and Thierry Allemand, to name but a few. They say a picture paints a thousand words and there really is no better way of learning the complexities of Burgundy than by being there, walking the vineyards and spending time in the cellars with all the colourful and hugely insightful vignerons.
I had always dreamed of working under a Master Sommelier and the job of my dreams opened up on Guildsomm. This was enough to tempt me back onto the floor to my current place of employment.
I am a bit of a certification junky! It is really easy just to study and drink your way through the regions you enjoy. Certification programs force you to study everything in an extremely thorough and focused manner and each program provider offers something slightly different from the next. I also find that it helps me personally to study things over and over and over again from the differing perspectives of each exam’s requirements. This really helps turn information into knowledge. I have just passed the Advanced portion of the CMS program, first pass, and was studying for the FWS and WSET diploma tangentially. They all complement each other and help ‘furnish’ your ‘Memory Palace’. When studying complex regions, such as Burgundy, It is easy to get lost in a ‘sea’ of information. The WSG courses help you to focus on what’s really important and why. The FWS was an extremely enjoyable program - it was beautifully put together and is a great tool for all serious students of wine.
It is also worth mentioning that the audio lectures are a real game changer for those long commutes, turning ‘dead’ time into quality study time. This is huge when you have a family and your schedule is ‘decked out’.
The FWS and WSG programs are a superb way to show employers your areas of strength and passion. It could certainly give you the edge at an establishment with a heavy French focus, which let’s face it, is most of the ‘heavy hitters’. I intend to work my way through the entirety of the Master Level programs in preparation for the Master Sommelier exams and hopefully one day the Master of Wine Exam. However, I feel it is really important to be conscious of the fact that the journey is the reward, not the destination and that there is no substitute for travel. Enjoy the ride! Allez Les Bleus!''