TALK IT OUT
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I find myself in the constant pursuit of ways to further a student taster’s ability to pinpoint the relationship between what we see, smell and eventually taste. I am attempting to map the pathways we use to get from well-formed identification of empirical data to its interpretation and conclusions in the realm of blind tasting.
I find that most students learning the mechanisms for the gathering of the empirical data have trust issues with the information. We employ several tools to reinforce for the students a sense of empowerment to building their confidence level.
Some of the techniques require another taster to make them work. In my experience, tasters tend not to say everything. They think it and believe they have said it but never did. The adage if tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a noise? In blind tasting the answer is no. if you do not say it, it did not happen. How do you work on ‘saying’ everything? Tape yourself. Give yourself the allotted amount of time for a wine i.e., 4 minutes start to finish. Go through the grid you are required to speak to.
At the end of the 4 minutes, stop and listen to the tape and take notes and grade yourself from the grid. The tape will give you perfect feedback on how well you spoke to the elements in the glass and how you drew conclusions from those data points. This seems very basic, however it has been my experience since creating the blind tasting curriculum, that candidates do not always utter, but rather simply think it! Another version on this theme is to tape yourself and play it for a friend in the same level of study, stop the tape prior to the conclusion portion and have them conclude based on what they ‘heard;’ no wine in front of them. These two methods force the tasting candidate to think and ‘speak’ to their experience and then defend it.
Once you are comfortable saying everything, time will often become an issue meaning you run out of it. Now you need to work on only saying what is relevant. My suggestion is to treat the process in the manner my 11th grade English teacher taught when crafting short stories. If you can remove words from your sentence and the sentence still makes sense, then you do not need the removed words. I believe that you need to begin by saying everything that comes to mind, to become accustomed to speaking quickly, once comfortable, you can abridge.
Our students are forced to support their positions and defend their ideas. The great result of becoming a great blind taster is the developed sense and improved ability to critically think.
There is a need for repetition. This effort is pure practice practice practice!
© Andrew F Bell Americans Sommelier