Becoming a Cork Dork

We talk to journalist Bianca Bosker about her new book, sommelier certification, and the defining moments of her deep dive into the world of wine.
Photo by Tracy Allan , Q36 Creative

In her upcoming book Cork Dork (Penguin, March 2017), Bianca Bosker recounts her journey into the trenches of the fun, crazy and sometimes dark world of sommeliers, including getting her own certification from the Court of Master Sommeliers. We asked her when she realized that she’d become a cork dork herself.

You went from knowing nothing about wine to becoming a sommelier. What’s an experience that made you step back and say, “I’m one of them now”?

One day…I put my nose into the wine, and I had this three-tier experience that hit me at my brain, body and emotion. First, knowing what I’m smelling—apricot, white flowers— and being able to put words to it. Second, I could tell it was Viognier. And the third part was, all of a sudden, I was in the warm sun of the summer at the beach with my husband, driving through these fields. It was a visceral reaction even without tasting the wine. I realized I was operating on all cylinders.

“Wine is no longer, for me,
an accessory at a meal.”

Can you taste for pure enjoyment, or do you find that you break  everything down to nuances?

I would argue that tasting the nuance is enjoying the wine. I take a great deal of pleasure from being able to really unpack the sensory, the intellectual and emotional components of a glass of wine. What’s nice is wine is no longer, for me, an accessory at a meal that you order because that’s what you do. It really is its own experience and has its own story to tell.

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Sommeliers are known to drop serious coin on special wine. What’s your splurge?

Oh, just one? The one liability of honing your taste in wine is, for me, a bank account-crippling weakness for old Champagne. That’s my financially irresponsible pleasure.

Did you really want to become certified, or did you go through the whole experience to write about it?

I was in a phase in my life where this was something I was really curious to pursue, no matter what. I was interested in testing myself, and…I also wanted to work with scientists to decode my brain and use whatever tools I could use to measure how far I’ve come. The exam provided a real structure to become a part of a community and master a discipline. I believe in learning the rules in order to decide how and where to break them.

What’s your impression now of the elite world of “cork dorks”?

Respect and admiration. Respect for the incredibly grueling work they do and standards to which they hold themselves. Admiration because they see the potential in these chemical senses of taste and smell that most of us dismiss.…I admire this population of people who are champions of these ignored, underrated senses.

Published on January 12, 2017
Topics: Wine Enthusiast Q+A

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