Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan, once a management associate in corporate banking, is now well-known as one of the nation’s “go to” experts on wine and spirits. She is the fourth woman and among only 30 people in the United States to hold the world’s top wine title of Master of Wine (MW). She has used this expertise in judging international wine and spirits competitions and training thousands in the industry.
Jennifer is the author of “The One Minute Wine Master: Discover 10 Wines You’ll Like in 60 Seconds or Less” and co-author of “Pairing with the Masters: A Definitive Guide to Food & Wine” along with Certified Master Chef Ken Arnone. She is also the author and host of five DVD series on wine and spirits, including “The Everyday Guide to Wine.”
Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan has been featured on NBC’s “Today Show” and “Fox News,” as well as in world-class publications such as Fortune, Businessweek, Everyday with Rachael Ray and Wine Enthusiast. She has also hosted seminars with famous Food Network stars such as Rachael Ray, Tyler Florence, Mario Batali, Bobby Flay and Jacques Pépin.
ITM: After you quit your banking job, you started learning about wine while working in a wine shop in Greenwich Village. How has your love and appreciation for wine changed since then? What has stayed the same?
JSB: My love and appreciation of wine has grown. One thing that won’t change, though, is how there is always something new to learn with wine. It’s what makes it so fascinating. I hope I never lose that wonderment for it.
ITM: Being a Master of Wine and already having received so many awards, how do you stay motivated to continually better your wine knowledge?
JSB: The world of wine changes and is in a state of constant flux. You have to stay hungry and on top of your knowledge. It’s just like with a language: if you don’t use it, you lose it. I love learning about viticulture, winemaking, the science, the global business, everything! I learn something new with everyone I meet and it never gets old.
JSB: It’s a four-day exam, which includes writing essays on all topics around wine – viticulture, winemaking, business, etc. – in addition to identifying 36 wines blind. The year I passed the tasting exam, the pass rate was 10 percent. The third part, if one passes the exam, is to write a 10,000-word research dissertation that is seen as furthering the knowledge of the industry. It took me six long years of intense study on top of my full time job, to pass.
ITM: While corporate banking and the wine industry are vastly different, what experiences and similarities did you take from the first that helped to make your second career so successful?
JSB: Corporate banking taught me discipline, perseverance, high tolerance for long work hours as well as a critical eye for analysis. I also worked abroad and in different cultures. It’s what introduced me to the world of wine in the first place.
ITM: You’ve already hosted a DVD series, written books and continue to train those in the industry. What’s your next project?
JSB: I will definitely be writing more books, articles and hosting more DVD courses with The Great Courses. But I do have something even more exciting on the horizon; I just can’t really reveal it quite yet. You’ll be hearing about it real soon though. So stay tuned.
ITM: How about some basic advice for those future MW candidates out there?
JSB: The best advice I can give to MW candidates is to study smarter, not harder. Don’t spin your wheels. It’s not about the number of hours studying and wearing it like a badge. It’s about studying more actively than passively, identifying gaps and blind spots in their knowledge/skills and employing the 80:20 rule spending their time on what’s relevant. MW candidates need to think of themselves as Olympic athletes rather than students. Olympic athletes get there with a structured plan, disciplined training and finding the right people to surround themselves with, to support them. jennifersimonetti.com