According to my inbox, the email arrived at 5:51AM, around the time I was finishing up my lifting and getting ready to go for a run. I had waited in eager anticipation, laced in a subtle fear of failure, for some time, but somewhere in my workout I’d managed to forget about the monkey on my back for just a moment. Though I’d been waiting every day for a week, the email somehow still managed to catch me off guard.
If you’ll excuse a little over-share, when I run half marathons, I wear bandaids on my nipples. This is a very good idea, especially on rainy days, and has saved me a lot of pain and blood loss over the years. The one moment I question this practice is, of course, at the end of the run, when I’m tearing a piece of adhesive plastic off of one of my more sensitive areas, often removing some hair along with it. I always just yank and get it over with. When I noticed the email, I didn’t bother thinking, praying, or calling anyone. I just yanked (read: clicked), and hoped that whatever was inside didn’t hurt me much.
“I am pleased to let you know that you passed the exam. In fact, you Passed with Merit! So congrats on a job well done. Celebrate this weekend and raise a glass to you.”
With a smile plastered across my face, I took a moment to thank the universe, then texted my friend Zach who had taken the exam with me, and who harbored similar fears of failure. “CHECK YOUR EMAIL” was all I wrote. A few moments later, he replied, with similar results.
The thing is, I wasn’t unduly concerned. We all know that guy who got a 36 on his ACT test in high school and graduated first in his class from law/medical school, the guy who never fails anything yet always says self-depricating nonsense in the presence of people who might legitimately have failed. I hate that guy. You hate that guy. I’m not that guy. This test was tough. What there is to know about the world of wine is so incredibly diverse and so unmistakably deep; that’s what draws me to it. That also means that anytime you draw fifty questions from a bank of thousands, you run the risk of getting some, possibly many, that you just can’t answer.
I got a few about things like the flavor profile of silver tequila that left me scratching my head, but for the most part I felt like my daily practice exams and time spent in the manual had paid off. That being said, I tallied up the questions that I knew for a fact I had gotten right, questions I could simply not have gotten wrong, and I got only to twenty-four. That meant I had to get at least four more right just to pass, and while I knew my odds were fairly good, anytime you pay hundreds of dollars and drive hundreds of miles to take an exam, that Murphy guy has a tendency to start mumbling in the background of your psyche. In the end, Murphy was silenced this time, and what could have gone wrong ended up going quite right. Would I have liked to pass with distinction rather than merit? Absolutely. But not having to take the exam a second time, and finishing with the distinction of “with merit” left me feeling pretty good… and enthused about beginning study for my Level III.
If you’re just starting out in the WSET track, I’d be happy to talk to you about my experiences thus far (or you could go back through and read my blogs about it). It’s a terrific program of study, and one I’ve found both edifying and enjoyable. I’d strongly recommend it to anyone with a profound interest in wine, professionally or otherwise. It’s amazing how much there is to know, and how much fun the education can be. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go put some Champagne on ice.