On black belts, sommeliers, six sigma and other bull
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Now, the funny thing today is that someone shared one of the cutesy but normally inaccurate photos on Facebook, and this one was a periodic table for wine. The chart is so wrong because many of the wines mentioned are actually something else, as they are a style, which is not in itself a unique varietal. So, I commented as such and the poster said that a friend who is a sommelier shared that with her as a starting point for wine.
Sommelier, which is the technical term for wine steward is one of the most misused and abused certifications that you can have these days. There are many sommeliers know very little, but are quick to point out that they have the title. I remember doing a website for some sexy sommeliers and had to laugh at the concept simply because of the speed at which the title can be gained through certain certifying bodies these days. It reminds me of what passes for a black belt. If you don’t know what I am talking about, basically in certain places, you can more or less purchase your black belt within one year. This doesn’t really mean that you truly have a grasp of the information, can take a hit or deliver a beatdown; you just have the black belt.
In my life, I have been fortunate to have been exposed to a lot of different things and have done my time in the trenches to appreciate and fully utilize the knowledge versus picking up a certification and/or registration here or there. As Louis C.K. said in his last comedy special, a fifty-five year old sanitation worker is a lot wiser than a twenty-eight year old with three doctorates.
I have seen people who knew nothing about wine, take and pass the first course in the wine educator’s pipeline and then think that they really know the difference between Sauvignon Blanc and other white wines based on the color alone. That in itself is the most arrogant thing that would really get someone kicked from the table where and when grown folks are speaking.
This also doesn’t mean that the people selling you wine know anything themselves either. The state of Pennsylvania is notorious for selling wines which are old and going bad and having people who know very little about wine, but are tasked with selling it to the public. I guess the state believes that if you don’t like it, maybe you’ll stop drinking it. I happened to meet one woman who has worked for the state store system for twenty-two years and she refused to believe that Chablis is one hundred percent Chardonnay. Mind you, this was a person who based on her years selling wine thought that she was pretty up on it. Her feeble attempt at justifying her position was to actually mention "American" Chablis out of California in jugs. There is no such thing as American Chablis, just like there is no such thing as American Champagne! Also, there is no such thing as Fume Blanc.
Life is funny because the more you really know, the more you get to meet people with all sorts of fancy titles, degrees, certifications and accolades who really are nothing more than dressed up dunces. As I told one Wharton MBA, “there are those that believe that buying a stock is the smart move, just as there are those that believe that selling the same stock is smart, and in many cases, they have the same exact education.” I have seen people with their Six Sigma certifications who couldn’t run a lemonade stand, or my favorite line off a CD by the Lox’ “couldn’t move powder at a baby convention!”
It’s a new year, and so far I probably have attended about four wine industry events, which are not to be confused with wine events open to the public for a fee, and have gotten to connect with more and more serious people in the industry, whether in press, sales, production, import and/or distribution. I had a lovely time at a Croatian wine tasting as well as the VinItaly US Tour this year. While I didn’t make it to VinItaly, I still look forward to visiting a number of wineries and producers that I know over there and maybe even making it over to Portugal to drink some very old Port and Madeira.
Oh, and my dig on Six Sigma is that it's just another bunch of crap that the business community has believed was the next big thing to make businesses leaner and more profitable. If you want profit, get rid of the bloated bureaucracies and get in people who actually are willing to make a decision and actually do more than study reports made by other consultants ahd what not. I find that many people in business do next to nothing and get paid too damned much to do it.
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