#FrattySOMM ?


"1994 Vouvray is KILLING it with that dish, man."

In the new drinks-driven PUNCH, a publication catering to all-things-booze, Francis Percival (from England) wrote an interesting piece on how American Sommeliers (SOMMs) are becoming "Fratty"… This seems to be evoking some very strong feelings from many in the SOMM community, and wanted to throw my two-cents out there...

Yes, there are videos of wine pong (yes, like beer pong)… SEE:


 source: http://www.blogyourwine.com/top-20-wine-tattoos/

source: http://www.blogyourwine.com/top-20-wine-tattoos/

And yes, people have tattoos of "RIESLING"*, and corkscrews...

*To the right: That is a TEMPORARY tattoo on one of the most famous, well respected Wine Professionals, Jancis Robinson, who just so happens to be British. (Looks like the Americans aren't having all the fun...)

 source: http://www.blogyourwine.com/top-20-wine-tattoos/

source: http://www.blogyourwine.com/top-20-wine-tattoos/

One of my secrets for finding rare/old wines, SommPicks, a website that sells wine selected by top Somms, uses the catchphrase, "EpicJuice." 

I am guilty of Flabongo-ing (yes, a beer-bong in the shape of a Flamingo) a Spanish wine-drink, Kalimotxo

Perhaps the most "fratty" examples can be seen in a film, SOMM  (a documentary) that follows four aspiring Master Sommeliers. These guys might come across as "fratty" according to most standards... Nicknames, teasing, taunting, "Dude, 04 Vacqueyras, that's a ballsy call!" 

 source: SecondGlass Facebook

source: SecondGlass Facebook

There is even an event called WINERIOT (which I've worked) that is a four hour walk around tasting, complete with educational sessions, temporary tattoo stations, a "bubble bar" for sparkling wines, and a photobooth with "I SPIT / I SWALLOW" signs and other creative props.

But "Fratty"?

For the *most* part, I don't know if that is quite the way I'd describe it...

More informal? Yes, which, frankly, I enjoy and I believe has been helping contribute to the rising number of wine drinkers in America, and Percival would seem to agree. No longer is wine seen as something for the "elite" or something to be intimidated by…  That said, I think service in general is becoming less formal - not just wine service.

Going out is no longer necessarily a formal affair. There are many places in NYC where you are overdressed if you're not wearing jeans... My go-to outfit these days is boots, dark jeans and a blazer. Maybe a sparkly headband, to you know, "dress up."

The SOMM or server who happens to be wearing attire that is perhaps only slightly more "formal" or on par with the guests' attire can make one instantly feel at ease. Service becomes almost more like dining at a friend's really nice friend's apartment, where it is more than just about great food and wine. This convivial atmosphere and ambiance transforms the entire dining experience. While food and wine are still important, at the forefront is good conversation, feeling welcome, and simply having a great time. The server or SOMM is no longer there to "serve" you necessarily. He or she is there to make you feel at ease and to ensure you enjoy every minute of your meal.

 source: SecondGlass Facebook

source: SecondGlass Facebook

If that is taken to mean "Fratty," then I'm all for it. 

In addition, Percival comments on the higher educational levels of most American Somms. I am always amazed at where most Somms started prior to getting into the industry. For me, I was never exposed to wine growing up - not once. The first time I ever had a sip might have been on my 21st birthday in Florence, Italy... and I hated it. (Granted, it likely came out of a Fiasco, but still...) I am trying to finish up a PhD in Cognitive Psychology, and to be honest, I think my degree has already proved incredibly helpful, in part because I can better understand where confusions lie (dry vs tannin? What? Burgundy is a place!? Not a grape? Why?!) I can empathize, and better understand how to communicate and engage those who might otherwise be intimidated by wine (as I was for so many years). But I am sure my case is not unique, and others in the industry are likely using their previous careers and degrees within the wine world, perhaps without even being aware. It goes beyond simple enthusiasm. Wine has a funny way of being able to link people together, and bridge across nearly every discipline. I'm not sure that being highly educated directly corresponds or leads to being "Fratty"... I was never in the Greek system in undergrad. Just saying, seems like a bit of a logical leap. 

 Source: Wikipedia

Source: Wikipedia

If anything, I would argue the wine-scene is LESS "fratty" now in the US, compared to when/where wine was/is still more of an "old-boys-club". Not to use the same word twice, but I really do think of "fratty" to mean an exclusive club to which outside members are not privy. Those were the days of the tastevin (I didnt even know what that was... because I've only seen it in movies) where old men would secretly sneer if you did not know that 1982 was a superb vintage in Bordeaux (let alone which side of the Gironde River). Two of the SOMMS that Percival interviews, Levi Dalton and Pascaline Lepeltier. were kind enough to email, and to even meet with me in order to discuss a career in the wine industry. Me - at the time when I met with Pasquiline, I literally had NO service experience besides working at a burrito place one summer during college. She took an hour out of her day to sit with me, discuss options, and even offered for me to trail her one night. Does that sound like a super-secret-unwelcoming-to-outsiders industry? I don't think so. At Corkbuzz Wine Studio with Laura Maniec, Master Sommelier, I've been lucky enough to intern for classes.

Again...Me. A nobody in the wine world.

Amazingly, I even was just awarded a scholarship for the Level1 Court of Master Sommeliers Course. They did not have to give it to me - a non-full-time "SOMM"... 

It's as if I walked onto campus senior year and said, "Um... Heeeey! I know you've already been in this for years, but can I join? I think you're super cool and I'm a nice person. Thanks!"

But, look at that. No fancy pedigree. No legacy. Welcomed into the "Fratt" with nothing but enthusiasm.

In essence, I agree with many of Percival's points. I just don't agree with the term "Fratty" to describe the emerging wine-scene as a whole.

In the end, this what I took away from Percival's piece, and I whole heartedly agree:

The American SOMMS, though perhaps more casual* than in the past (*in general*) are changing the way the public enjoys wine: making people feel as though they can enjoy wine without the intimidation. 


So, if this new emerging #SOMM gets more people more into wine...

"Then, I'm totes down, bro." 



New Series: METAWINE...

It has been a while. I need to make LOTS of updates, not only in terms of adding blind-tasting notes, but also in terms of the "about me" etc.  In the past year or so of this blog, I've come quite a long way... Of course, I am totally realistic, and now I know just how much I DON'T know, which is both overwhelming and exciting at the same time. 

Under this METAWINE umbrella, I hope to detail a lot of thoughts that relate wine to various topics - because wine is really SO much more than what is in your glass. META going back to my philosophy major, simply means "above" or "beyond." Actually, I currently study Metacognition, which is simply thinking about one's own thoughts. (Yeah, I know... Super nerdy/deep.) Bringing it all back to wine, wine is engaging on multiple dimensions, which I hope to further explore and elaborate upon in these posts.

Of course, I still want to update my blind tasting sections, if not for others, then to simply force myself to write out specifics and use my failures and victories as learning tools. I have a few wine exams around the corner, with lots of names, places, history, science, etc. to memorize. Even though it takes time, preparing the blind-tasting posts are incredible learning tools (if I need to teach someone else, I REALLY need to know it). 

All that said, as often as I can, I want to try this new series as well. MetaWine.

I'll just write a (quick?) thought, or post a link to something about wine that inspires me, makes me think, or that simply makes me smile.


Wine is so astounding because while it can be very academic (history, anthropology, psychology, meteorology, chemistry, biology, language, culture, etcetera), ultimately, wine is about sharing, engaging, and enjoying on multiple levels. There is no better way to make a connection with someone than over a glass of wine. Helping others understand what is in their glass is simply one way to foster sharing, conversation, exploration, and makes an evening (or afternoon) that much more enjoyable.

On my tight schedule trying to juggle life, hopefully that will suffice for now. After-all, if I spend too much time blogging, there's not enough time for drinking.

ANSWER: Wine #30

ANSWER: Wine #30

OH! I have a BLOG!?! 


Taking a hot minute to reveal the answer to WINE 30 (SPOILER ALERT: take a peek HERE before reading on!)

The reason for SUPER long hiatus: life. 

But really, between grad school and other stuff, I've been studying for the Wine & Spirits Education Trust Level 2 with the International Wine Center in NYC (passed, so now according to some peeps in London, I officially know something). I'm now going down into the Advanced (Level 3) rabbit hole... So we'll see if I can ever do this whole "blogging" thing on a regular basis. Good news: I've still been blind tasting and doing pretty well here and there. I've been keeping a record, so one of these days I need to enter them all into a spreadsheet and tally it up. There is a blind tasting for the Advanced exam, so I'm a bit nervous (besides the fact I need to memorize 250 pages of wine stuff...).

SO. What was WINE #30?

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Blind Tastings: Wine #29

SO. I have a big birthday coming up, and I figured I should write up another post before it rolls around... Actually, the number of this post is quite apropos. 


Well, what can help me get over the despair of entering into a new decade of my life?



(Nothing like a little deductive puzzle (that involves drinking wine) to distract you from how utterly-clueless you are about life in general)...


This wine was ruby, with some deep purple, and though it was transparent around the rim (so I thought it was maybe a few years old... a 2008?) I could barely see through the paper to the words below. This was a good clue: I knew I was not dealing with a thin-skinned grape like Pinot Noir. Nope. No, sir-ee-bob.

After a swirl, I noticed LOTS of those drips down the side of the glass called LEGS.

And, No, they don't mean how "GOOD" a wine is! (A common misunderstanding.)

It is a way to tell the viscosity of wine, which basically tells you if the grapes got really ripe. (There are other things that could affect this, but we'll keep it simple for now). Anyway, if you see a lot of them form slowly... you can be pretty confident that your wine is either really boozy or has some sugar in it...

I took a sniff. Yup. BOOZE.

Otherwise, lots of berries... ripe berries. Strawberry, Blackberry, Blueberry. And plums... Red Plum. Black plum.

Dirty. Earthy. Wet forrest floor. Definitely something funky... not like a barnyard smell I normally get in Spanish wines, and not meaty or gamey like from the Rhone in France. Just, maybe a little dusty? There was some minerality to this wine...

I also got a hit of sweet spice, which made me think it had seen some time in a barrel.

On the palate, it was more tart than I had expected. Some tart cranberries came through, but also some darker, purple fruits, like cassis (which I still haven't tasted on its own... Im just guessing at this point based on what I've been told it tastes like in other wine's I've tasted...). Maybe even some prune was going on...


  • med+ to high alcholol (it WAS BOOZY. I could feel the Buuuurrrrn)
  • med, maybe med + tannin. They were there, but not super mouth-drying... powdery, I'd say?
  • med + acid
  • med, med+ body

NOW. I'M GOING TO CHANGE THINGS UP A BIT. Just to keep you on your toes, you know?

Instead of me giving my guesses, I'll give you a couple of days to chime in...

What do you think this wine is?

Old world/New World? Climate? Age? Possible Grape Varieties? 

Take a guess in the comments below!

I'll post the correct answer on my actual birthday, as a grand-farewell to the last decade... 

ANSWERS: Wines #25-28

ANSWERS: Wines #25-28

WHEW. Started writing this all up over a month ago, and THEN...

Graduate school/everything else took over.

​Excuses, excuses. I know...

I really wanted to make it a good post and go into some serious detail. I think the concept of "terroir" (see below)* is a facintaing one... Basically, how one can taste the "somewhereness"* of a wine.

(You know, in my defense, delayed feedback can be good for memory....)​

Anyway, my perfectionist-tendencies kept me from returning to edit the post.  I felt as though I needed to devote a long writing session to get all the details in that I wanted to include.

BUT, HEY. I could ALWAYS get more in-depth, so my cursory overview of the grape variety at hand will simply have to do...

​For now, taking a break from manuscript writing (for a paper that is about learning by making mistakes) to answer a very important question:

What are Wines 25-28?

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