My journey through Stage 2 exam.

No one ever told me that it was going to be easy and actually I knew in the back of my mind what to expect, however nothing can prepare you for the four days ahead, even if you try really hard to imagine.

I trained all year, very hard, I debated all year if I should go for it or if I should wait, no regrets, but at one point I came to the conclusion that if I leave it I will loose a year, because with my style of life, the family and three kids you can easily shift into that kind of mentally that tell you to do everything tomorrow!

April arrived together with the dead line and with my heart betting fast I made my decision. Everyone at home was shocked in disbelieve.

I pushed as much as I could making myself sick by the end of April, temperature reached me at the speed of a tornado and I was lying in bed for a few days, unable to do anything.

I had time to think over my choices and overall my strange life, those kinds of crises that hit you hard and you start wondering.

However it was too late to go back and as soon as I was back on my feet I was spinning again like a crazy woman.

And of course June was not far, together with Tuesday 6th.

I arrived in London the day before and met my super patient husband, no much sleep follow that night: numbers, names, surnames, statistics, rootstocks, enzymes, additives, laboratory analyses, markets, grape varieties…all were going through my head without a precise order and logic.

Woke up at 5 of course, no much sleep could follow. We left for London and arrived at the hotel hall by 8am.

I cannot describe enough my fear, my desire to run away and that constant feeling of saying: “why am I here?”…But a strange inner force was overcoming and I kept repeating that there was no fear, but only courage and determination.

10am: 12 white wines follow in 2 hours and 15 minutes; you have an average of 3-4 questions per wine and no more then 10 minutes to spare per each set of questions. There is no time to wonder, a decision must be made regardless and your ability is to be focused and vigilant to small details because it’s them that make the difference.

3 essays about viticulture follow in the afternoon, with three hours time and the giant clock ticking the second left. By 5pm we were done and I felt this was just day 1.

Day 2 the same scenario: 12 reds, same time table, same pressure and stress level, with your palate pulling like crazy for the amount of tannins and everything of course by the end feel tannic! One hour and half for lunch and in the afternoon 3 essays in wine making followed. Technical questions, a joy for wine makers, less for me a woman of art and literature dealing with enzymes, yeasts and sulphur dioxide! Of course by 5pm I was cooked.

So far not so bad…super tired but overall satisfy!

The cherry on the cake arrived on the third day with what all of us called “ the F….G” paper. We knew it could have been anything, we call it the mixed bag, but on average sparkling and fortified wines are part of it and everyone prepares mentally for that kind of treatment. Instead it was not the case, there was only one sparkling and 2 fortified and the rest was a macerated wine, 2 rose’, 2 sweets and 4 still reds.. I was sweeting heavily thinking how to taste and which order to follow, with a paper like this you have to think strategically otherwise your palate will go. I started with the sparkling follow by the 2 rose’, then I moved to the red but went into panic, so I thought to myself I need to move on there is no time to waste, so I approached the fortified to feel safe and somehow confident. The reds were left last but by then my palate was somehow compromised. I read the question and thought tactically, the wine spoke to me, somehow I felt where I was. The time was ticking few minutes to go..

I managed to finish everything, but I was in pieces. Everyone was in pieces, confronting each other we were all over the place. It was a difficult paper no doubt about it!

But the day was not over and in the afternoon 2 more lovely essays on handling of wine followed, the most boring paper ever, which I still do not know why we should know in such details. Laboratory analysis, HACCP, ISO, QA, QC, bottling line, shipping wine in bulk…great fun of course for those who do this for living. We finished at 4pm,, on my way home I felt like a zombie!

And of course day 4 was left, the last day of the long wine marathon, no more tasting, but 5 essays writing, three in the morning for marketing and two in the afternoon with contemporary topics. The titles were great, I must admit, but I wish I had a bit more time to spare and less fatigue on me.

Anyway you can only imagine my great relief when by the afternoon it was all over. I thought I would exalt of enjoy, instead I was in pieces.. Hardly unable to say anything…. We all went to the pub and I drunk a pint of Guinness as fresh water from the tap!

Friday the 9th had arrived.. Time to go home see my children, go to the garden, catch up with some friends,.

This was by far the most incredible week of my life to remember and share., but this of course was also the week I realise why Masters of wine are so few and rare!