I recently encountered a Master Sommelier who, to me, encapsulated the worst of what the CMS (Court of Master Sommeliers) curriculum can do to hamper wine education, outreach, and, simply, enjoyment. He was pompous, elitist, aggressively assertive with his half-truths, accepted myths, and wine old wives tales, and spoke from that annoying position that privileges the wines and grapes of the major Old World wine regions as wines to be emulated and imitated rather than merely a part of a dynamic global wine community.
Most annoying, however, is the insistence on sticking to this outmoded idea that there are certain “correct” aromas that should be gleaned from certain varietals and that, should you encounter a different aroma (say, white pepper instead of black pepper) you are incorrect. That concept is stupid, counter-intuitive, and does a lot to discourage the average wine drinker from the furthering their fine wine knowledge. It turns wine education into a system in which the students are students but rather sycophants memorizing received wisdom with little regard for that wisdom’s ongoing relevance.
I’ve written about this in various ways a few times before, so I won’t dwell on this too much more. If you want to read about my general displeasure with organized sommelier education programs, you can read that here and if you want to read my call to replace the conventional educational Wine Aroma Wheel, you can read that here.
Ultimately, wine education needs to be personal. The mental associations we make with what we drink and eat is what elevates mere consumption to pleasure. Each consumer needs to learn to develop his or her own vocabulary so that they can more readily articulate their tasting experience in a relevant, modern, and personal way. Describing a wine as smelling like “grandma’s pie” is much more revelatory, personal, and evocative than any string of aroma wheel adjectives.