JPSitjes Wines & Spirits Training Ltd

A corner for wines and spirits

UK Sommelier of the Year Competition

The first time I heard about the UK Sommelier of the Year competition was around 6 years ago but I never paid too much attention to it.
It wasn’t until 2016 that I took part in it. At that time I felt very cocky about my wine knowledge having just completed my WSET Level 3 Advance Course in Wines and Spirits.
It really stroke me the fact that some of the participants were either starting their WSET Diploma or were already half way through. Needless to say that the tests took me completely by surprise and I did not get through to the next round.
At that point I learned about the Court of Masters sommeliers a parallel organisation also offering wine qualifications in the UK and worldwide.
Two years have gone by and after careful consideration I decided to undertake the final WSET qualification, the match sought Diploma in Wines and Spirits rather than starting from scratch at the Court of Master sommeliers.
This year the Regional Final I took part in was held in Manchester, other than the location there was something else different, my understanding of it. I went down south without too many pretensions and mainly wanting to meet fellow sommeliers from around the country.
The blind tasting showed case a Soave from Italy and a Pinot Gris from Alsace for whites and a Chilean Carménère and a Barosa Shiraz to represent the red wines.
Following the blind tasting there was an exam with “true/false” questions as well as short answer ones. To top it up the role play exam took place before noon.
After lunch the three finalists were announced and they took part in the last part of the Regional Final.
A blind tasting with menu pairing took place as well as a wine decanting exercise and the traditional Champagne pouring, were the tests the finalists had to endure before the Winner could be announced.
After having taken part twice in this competition my piece of advice to future candidates is to follow the Court of Master sommeliers path and to try to work in either a Michellin star environment or a trendy wine bar where premium wines come as standard. WSET offer excellent wine and spirits knowledge, but they will still consider teaching lesser quality wines just because they are a commercial reality.

Staff Training

F&B Staff Training Session

In what could perhaps be considered a bit more of a formal environment than the previous sessions, I carried out a training session for the Food & Beverage and Front Office  staff at a Long Service Apartment in Edinburgh.

We started by  looking at their wine list and explaining the main characteristics of each of their wines, country of origin, grape, flavour profile, amongst others, as well as looking for what food would pair well with them from the current menu. I made the session very interactive by letting the staff try the wines and some of the dishes and prompting them to come up with the best pair.

I then moved onto giving them an overview of how Whisky is made and the different styles of Whisky availabe, before explaining the main characteristics of the various Whisky Regions in Scotland.

I told the team what the unique selling points for each Whiskies were and using their current Whisky List I suggested a few Whisky flights that could take customers on a journey depending on what they wanted to experince. Ranging from an introduction to Scottish Whiskies, to a discovery trip around the Isle of Islay.

This short sessions give a boost of confidence to team members since they feel more knowledgeble about the products they sell and can better suggest customers what to have since they have previously tried it.


Ozzie Wine Tasting at the Mercat Bar & Grill

Away from sunny Australia a day after their national day I hosted an introduction to Australia and its wines. Mercat Bar & Grill in Musselburgh was the chosen venue for the event which saw thirty people gathering together for the occasion.
The night began with a wee intro to the Climate and Weather in Australia, their vineyard management and wine making techniques as well as the main wine regions and their grapes.
The opening wine was the Rag & Bone from Magpie Estate. A very fresh and citrusy Riesling from Eden Valley. Big minerality with a clean and crisp finish characterised this wine.
Starters arrived as the second wine of the night made its appearance. Sixty Clicks a Sauvignon Semillon blend from Victoria. The tropical fruit and high acidity of the Sauvignon was mellowed down by the sweetness of the Semillon; making an excellent pair with the prawns being served.
Just after two glasses of wine, the room started getting louder which made the presentation of the third white of the night a bit difficult. It was time for Listening Station from Western Australia to strike. Un-oaked and without malolactic fermentation this Chardonnay was full of citrus and white peach flavours combined with a zesty, fresh acidity and a mineral finish.
After giving the audience a few minutes to finish what was left in the glasses, the reds started to flow. What best wine to start than with a 2015 Cabernet from McLaren Vale. Twist of Fate wants to accentuate the fruit notes and to create a very aromatic and vibrant wine, for these reasons oak contact has been restricted.
Generous platters of BBQ meats were served just in time to start sipping The Black Craft, 2015 Shiraz from Barossa. A touch of Petite Sirah adds structure and spiciness to a wine marked by intense savoury flavours of blackberries; with soft tannins, balanced acidity and a long finish.
To conclude the evening we had a Shiraz and Cabernet blend from South Australia. Stone the Crows is a rich and full bodied wine with notes of ripe red fruit and soft tannins.
Glasses were getting emptied and guests started to leave the Mercat, all of them praising the quality of the wines tasted and what a lovely evening they had.


Corporate Whisky Tasting

For this Whisky Tasting I had a corporate group that had been in a meeting room for the whole day. For this reason I tried a different approach, more visual aids than lecturing them. I started the session by explaining how Whisky is made, followed by the different types of whisky and how Whisky tastes different depending the region in Scotland you are at.

I started the tasting with Auchentoshan 12yo, a very mild easy to drink whisky from near Glasgow in the Lowlands. With a bit more of flavour and character I moved towards the Highlands and gave them a taste of Glenmorangie Original.

The trip around Scotland took us next to the Spey Side, where a MacAllan 12y0 filled the sweeter palates.

After three nips the body was ready to face the more fiercesome Higland Park 12y0 from the Orkney Islands.

Laphroaig was kept for the grand finale and was met by some with a stern face and a burning sensation in their throat.

Resources used:

Whisky Making by Tomatin

The Man Who Walked the World by Johnny Walker

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