Thanks to My Wine Diploma, I Can Now See the Point of History and Geography
Moore, Victoria, New Statesman (1996)
After my finals, I promised never again to put myself through the torture of feeling sick because I'm so ill-prepared for an exam. But on 3 June there I was, outside the exam room, textbook open, trying to memorise the formula for potassium ferrocyanide, an agent used to remove iron and copper from wine, as well as which vine varieties are most susceptible to a group of diseases known as grapevine yellows. Yes, it was a wine exam. The Wine and Spirit Education Trust runs a two-year diploma course, and for the first half I had to sit five hours of written, essay style questions and one of tasting, all done in proper exam conditions in a big hall with invigilators and row upon row of desks.
Amazingly, I've just discovered that I passed, and this despite muddling up all the glasses in the blind tasting and being so gloomy about how it was all going that I opted to drink the samples (the proper procedure is to spit).
This means that I can now bear to talk about it all again, and I have to say that I can't recommend the course enough. Besides the dweeby pleasure to be had from knowing about viticulture and vinification, learning about wine makes history and geography more interesting than I ever thought possible.
For example, I now know that the great wines of the Medoc in Bordeaux are made where glaciers slithering off the Pyrenees thousands of years ago left the deepest gravel deposits. …