Arvid Rosengren, Best Sommelier in the World 2016, Star Wine List NYC ambassador and partner, gives you his best advice on how to study wine.
Your best general advice when it comes to learning about wine?
”In some ways, the best way to learn about wine is the organic way: Tasting, drinking, travelling, meeting winemakers, walking the vineyards. You have to do all that! However, when we speak of learning about wine in terms of taking courses, certification or competing, you have to approach it a little differently and make sure that you're also learning about the wines and regions that may not excite your palate as much.”
”There is, of course, a balance to this. When I was cramming Bulgarian synonyms or memorizing the names of emerging Chinese wine regions, there were days where I was pretty fed up with wine. So it's important to maintain the joy and excitement too, not just try to cram facts into your head.”
”Another solid tip, if you do need to really cram and memorize a ton of facts: spend some time learning how to study before diving into it. I realized early that just reading the same books over and over wasn't going to work – the world of wine has become so broad and deep that we have to take up advanced techniques used in other fields, study like people do in med school instead of culinary school!”
Tell us about your studying routine!
”At the peak, when I was studying for The Best Sommelier in the World competition, I scheduled out a year in advance. This week I'd study German wine, next week Austrian wine and so forth. Once a week was over, I'd abandon the subject (until the next round). The reason for this is that no matter how much you study, there's always more to read and learn. At some point, you have to move on. On top of that, I'd spend 1-2 hours every morning doing repetition of subjects I'd previously learned. There are some powerful tools out there to help with that.”
How do you get the knowledge to stick in your head, rather than forgetting after just a short while?
”I utilized a technique called Spaced Repetition (just google it, much more resources out there on the subject), in order to effectively space out learning, not overwhelm myself (there's only so much time in a day with work and family etc).
Theory or practice – where do you start?
”Building the overarching holistic understanding is key and has to come first. For example, there's no use in starting to memorize Burgundy premiers crus if you don't understand the history, geology, culture of the area, or have looked at a map (or preferably, visited and seen the vineyards), not to mention tasted some good examples of the wines. Once you have an understanding, you can begin cramming the details.”
Do you use any special tools? Like apps, maps, flashcards etc?
”All the above! I have a very extensive library of flashcards that I've built. Many people have asked if they can have my flashcards and I've been offered pretty ridiculous sums of money for it. But it's absolutely essential that you build your own base of knowledge, that's part of effective learning.”