Exam (session 16) 240 minute examinations consisting of:
Theory Exam 1 - 100 multiple choice questions (90 minutes).
Theory Exam 2 - 6 essay questions (180 minutes).
Practical Exam 3 – Blind Tasting: 2 red wines, 2 white wines. (30 minutes)
Successful completion of AWC is required for admittance into ISGM.
The following information is an outline of what the ISG considers to be general guidelines for essay
writings and the level of knowledge that is expected at the completion of AWC. Below you will find
a sample essay, demonstrating a perfectly written sample.
Please remember that in order to meet your educational entrance requirements for the Sommelier
certification you must attain no less than 70% in each of your three examinations.
Essay Expectations for Students
Essay sections on the ISG’s AWC and Degree exams are important measures of a
student’s understanding of the topics covered in class. Unlike multiple choice questions,
which test the student’s ability to recognize correct answers to questions, the essays are
designed to allow a student to demonstrate that s/he has a coherent and comprehensive
understanding of a particular issue.
What is an Essay?
Students often have difficulty with essay writing. There are several reasons for this, but
the primary issue seems to lay in a confusion about what an essay is. In its most basic
form, an essay is a written attempt to make sense of an issue. More specifically, an essay
is an attempt to make sense of an issue by taking a position and arguing for the validity
of that position. A set of factual details is given in support of the position for which
you are arguing.
The name typically given for the position you have taken is a thesis. In all arguments,
the most important feature is a strong thesis. This is important because the factual
details that are delivered are only valid insofar as they support your thesis. The thesis
provides structure and coherence to your argument. Students are advised that writing a
brief outline is valuable in assisting in the development of a strong thesis and supporting
argument. After developing a brief outline of the factual details to be included in the
essay, a thesis statement must be written. The important fact to notice here is that the
thesis statement should be written after the outline has been developed.
The ISG recognizes that our students are not professional writers. However, there are
minimum requirements for the essay portion of examinations to ensure a minimum level of
competence for our graduates.
- Clear, logically developed communication of an idea
- All essays must be written in sentence and paragraph form; we will not accept bullet point answers
- Correct spelling to a point where the instructor can clearly interpret the meaning of the word. A deduction of up to 10% of the overall mark will follow for spelling errors of essential wine related terms and grammar.
- An effort in understanding the wide variety of wine languages
The essays should consist of no less than: a clear introduction followed by the main
statements/thesis and proper conclusion in the 750-900-word range.
Compare and contrast Valpolicella and Amarone della Valpolicella.
Though Valpolicella and Amarone della Valpolicella are derived from the same geographical area,
the wines are radically different in style. Amarone is in fact a DOC applied to the stylistic
variation introduced by the familiar Italian appassimento process—the process of partially drying
grapes prior to fermentation. Wines produced using the appassimento process are known as passito
wines, and the style is common in many Italian regions. Despite its relative youth in the
international marketplace—it was first marketed by Bolla in the 1950s—Amarone is likely Italy’s
best known example of the style. Amarone is, quite specifically, the dry-fermented variation
(as distinguished from the sweet Recioto della Valpolicella or the medium sweet Amandorlato),
and the derivation of the name, from Italian Amaro or ‘bitter,’ suggests much about the wine’s
ultimate flavor profile.
The Veneto’s Valpolicella DOC is at once one of Italy’s simplest and most diverse. This may seem
a contradiction, but one of the things that distinguishes this DOC is its multifaceted approach to
vinification. Though the raw materials are similar for Valpolicella and Amarone, the finished
products are radically different. Those raw materials are the holy trinity of Venetian black
grapes—Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara—grown either on the traditional high-trained pergola
or more modern post and wire trellises. Though there is a large supporting cast, including grapes
like Dindarella and Negrara, and even permitted Internationals (at 5 %), Corvina remains the most
prominent of the Veneto’s varieties. Corvina, which typically appears at anywhere from 40-70 %
of the blend is prized for its floral and cherry aromatics and the thick skin that contributes
stability during the drying process. Small-berried Rondinella is also a popular drying grape
because it typically dries faster than Corvina, and thereby reduces risk to the producer.
The stylistic diversity of the region is potentially a source of confusion, and it is not
without a certain political component that complicates matters even further. Valpolicella DOC
(like its neighbor Soave) is one of the DOCs whose boundaries were redrawn in the 1960s, primarily
to accommodate the commercial needs of large scale Italian producers. The original growing area
sits on a series of ridges and mountain valleys in the 4 valleys of Garganago, Fumane, Marano,
and Negrar, which today represent the Classico zone; after 1968, however, the DOC was extended
into the plains or pianura below. This effectively doubled the available land and added much
alluvial land to the more prized volcanic basalt (locally known as toar), tufa, and calcareous
clays of the Classico zone.
In some ways, the stylistic differences between Amarone and Valpolicella normale are
mirrored here. Valpolicella is the high volume basic wine of the area, typically produced
from the earliest harvested fruit and made in a bright, light to medium-bodied style.
Some producers have had success with carbonic maceration to lift the fruit and reduce the
characteristically high acidity of the wine, and this seems to emphasize the divide between
basic Valpolicella and Amarone. Valpolicella is the cheap and cheerful Beaujolais of Italy;
what Beaujolais is to the French bistro, Valpolicella is to the Italian trattoria.
This is not to say, of course, that there aren’t serious Valpolicellas sitting alongside
the basic ones I’ve described. But they are the exceptions, not the norm.
A partial solution to the issue of Valpolicella’s lightness and use of second best fruit,
has been the development of the Ripasso method in which a fully fermented Valpolicella is
passed over the lees of an Amarone fermentation. This re-passing inspires a small fermentation
and allows the light Valpolicella to extract flavor and body from the Amarone lees.
What distinguishes Amarone here is that it is invariably serious. The expense and the
technology required to produce Amarone compel a relatively high price tag, and higher price
tags invariably come attached to higher consumer expectations. The appassimento process
involves the manual harvest of perfect bunches of fruit and, because the goal of the process
is to concentrate sugars in the grapes, most producers will typically leave grapes on the vine
longer in order to begin the process with higher sugar levels and reduce drying time
(and their own risk). Grapes are transported to special warehouses where they are laid out on
straw or bamboo mats, or, more often today, stacked in wood or plastic boxes. In the past,
producers typically relied on the prevailing winds to provide the air flow through their
facilities (air flow is essential to reduce rot development and speed evaporation), but
today most facilities are equipped with fans and even dehumidifiers. In the early stages of
the process, producers check the bunches regularly for the development of rot—though when
the rot is noble, some producers are quite willing to allow it into the wine. This, indeed,
along with grape variety, length of appassimento, and post-fermentation maturation, is one of
the factors which distinguishes one Amarone from the next.