How does soil influence wine quality? How does changing a trellising system affect vineyard health and yields? Following malolactic fermentation, what options are available to reduce alcohol levels in finished wine and how should they be deployed? Critically examine the extent to which the increasing emphasis on “natural wine” is a positive development for consumers.
A record 98 candidates tackled questions like these two weeks ago in London, Napa, and Sydney. Then they had to dive into three blind tastings of twelve wines each, over two hours each, trying to parse differences in white, red, and sparkling (gah–with four moscato wines in the sparkling flight!). After passing the exams and submitting a 10,000-word research paper, the students would have their names added to the list of 298 current MWs worldwide. (Impressive as it is, some have wondered aloud if passing is little more than just a bragging right from a career perspective).
The Institute has posted the entire exam to their website and it is well worth checking out. Since there are no instructions, students had to respond to one question in each section A and two questions from each section B of the “theory” section. In the “practical” section, students must score 195 (out of a possible 300) to pass. It amounts to a really huge volume of wine knowledge that takes years to compile–students aren’t allowed to sit the exams until after two years of study. Richard Hemming, who took the exams this year, wrote on JancisRobinson.com that he has spent almost $10,000 this year in tuition, exam fees, and wine to prepare. He also spent 28 “working days” preparing since last September. Since it’s rare to sail through on the first try, each student has three tries to pass the exams, given annually.
A couple of months ago, the Institute of Masters of Wine took the bold step of investigating one of its members for violations of its code of conduct; the member resigned. Posting this year’s full exam adds to the transparency and relevancy of the Institute. Now, what’s left for the Institute to achieve its own Perestroika is to make available not only the titles of the 10,000-word research papers that candidates must pass to become MWs (called “dissertations”), but also the papers themselves.
In higher education in the United States, Ph.D. dissertations are archived and accessible via UMI and any student’s master’s thesis is likely found in their university’s library. Certainly much research in the US relies on government funding in some way, whether a grant or at a state university, so there’s a fiscal basis for the openness. But most importantly, it’s about sharing ideas and findings to advance our collective knowledge. While the Institute of Masters of Wine is a private institution, their students draw on the industry’s time and resources while doing their research. We all benefit from the fruits of the vine; making the successful candidates’ essays publicly available would be the best way to share the fruits of their research with both consumers the trade. Indeed, in this era of information openness and wikileaks, it’s hard to see it any other way.
The holiday wine class is now only a week away! Grab one of the remaining seats and join us on 12/10 in NYC to taste through seven great wines for gifting and drinking! Here are ten reasons to entice you to sign up:
* The just-fired coach of the New Jersey Nets will make a guest appearance to give a brief talk on winning.
* Being able to know which end of the bottle to open the only prior wine knowledge needed!
* Tareq and Michaele Salahi will crash the event.
* Find some excellent wines to give as gifts to your friends and co-workers.
* Get a gilt-edged, collectors’ edition of Dr. Vino’s holiday wine survival guide!
* Discover undervalued gems to pour at your holiday party!
* Meet fellow wine enthusiasts!
* Vigneron Brad Pitt will stop by and discuss what he has learned about wine grape growing in Provence. And goatee growing.
* Find out which wine is the perfect match for roaring fires and chestnuts!
* Learn essential wine miscellany that you can use to impress people over eggnog at holiday parties!
All right, some of these may be true and some may be totally made up. Stop by and find out the truth for yourself!
Buy tickets in advance here
Thursday, Dec 10, 6:30 – 8:00 PM, on E. 29th Street
How natural should wine be? That’s one of the hottest questions in the wine world today.
On September 12, join me at the University of Chicago’s Graham School for a Saturday seminar entitled: “Red, white and “green” wines: can you taste the difference?” We will discuss issues relating to organic and biodynamic wines, talk about some leading wines and wine makers, and see if we can taste the difference between some conventional wines and their eco-wine counterparts in a blind tasting. No previous wine experience is necessary. Hope to see you there!
The most recent session of my six-week introductory wine class at NYU wrapped up last week. We like to end the class in style: a giant edition of show and tell and taste. For some odd reason, Mrs. Vino always refers to this as the party, but no! It is an assignment!
Each participant brings in a wine to present to the class, which means we get to taste about 25 wines that evening. Good times! And ever since I banned people from getting wines at the closest store to our venue, a store that seems to specialize in unearthing wines that have been stored next to the boiler for several winters, the quality of the wines has risen tremendously and people really have a lot of run exploring the wine shops of the city. Some people brought in bottles from trips to wineries in New York and California, and others were looking to try something out on us before pouring it at Thanksgiving. Here are a few of the highlights from last week: Read more…
Which wines will we be pouring at the U of C this Saturday afternoon? Well, there’s a generous wine budget and I spent it all. Some of the wines will include Ridge Monte Bello 1990 and a mature Bordeaux, Pax Cellars Griffin’s Lair (from magnum) and J.L Chave St. Joseph. There will be more but I don’t want to ruin the surprise!
So sign up for the few remaining spaces if you can. It will be a really fun edition of our Saturday seminars where no previous knowledge of wine is required for this non-credit session. All participants will also get a signed copy of my new book, Wine Politics: How Governments, Environmentalists, Mobsters, and Critics Influence the Wines We Drink. All wines poured will tie in to the themes of the book. Click though for more details and registration info. (And no, I don’t get paid any more based on enrollment; it’s just that these wines will be crazy fun so come, taste them, and contribute to the discussion!)
If for some reason that doesn’t work out, I’ll be doing a smaller, shorter tasting at Just Grapes on Thursday (details and registration) and a book signing at Sam’s Lincoln Park on Friday, 5 PM – 7 PM. Stop by and say hi! Now if only I could score some Cubs tickets, my trip to Chicago would be complete!
This fall, I’ll have the good fortune to return to Chicago. No, I won’t be contender on Top Chef though I do hope to eat in some of the city’s great restaurants or BYOBs.
Both of the trips will be anchored by classes at the University of Chicago’s Graham School, which are open to everyone who chooses to register. On September 20, I’ll lead a Saturday afternoon seminar called “France and America: Wine Politics and a Tasting Showdown.” We will talk about themes from my upcoming book, Wine Politics, and then have a wildly fun, blind and competitive tasting of wines from the two countries. The wine budget for these events is good and in the past we have had some excellent mature wines in a variety of sizes. All participants will receive a signed copy of the book as part of the enrollment. Details and registration.
On December 6, we’ll be talking and tasting holiday wines in another Saturday seminar. This time the discussion will be centered around my second wine book, “A Year of Wine,” which will be published in November by Simon & Schuster. As with the September event, the wines will be fun and participants will receive a signed copy of this book too. Details and registration.
Although this may seem like eons from now, apparently we get a nicer room if signups are strong early. So sign up! See you there!
Last week was the final session of my six-week NYU wine class. The grouping of people was very fun and hopefully everyone is a little more wine savvy.
One of the things that I do in the class is poll people on whether they like each wine. They’re free to love them or hate them and we generally have some fence-sitters too. Some people love certain wines (“smell the terroir!”) that are hated by others (“smells like terroir!”). Oddly enough, the expensive wines are not always the most popular since they have either too much individuality or too much conformity to please everyone.
But some wines are unanimously enjoyed. Below is a list of those wines. Incidentally, I poured about 35 wines (blind) spanning many places and styles. One week I was away on parental leave and recruited Mollie Battenhouse to help me out. Mollie, the former sommelier at Tribeca Grill and a candidate for the Master of Wine (all she has left is her dissertation), is starting her own wine business in NYC that is a first of its kind. More on that on a future date…To the wines! Read more…
Buckle your seat belts for more wine classes in 2008! And should I tell you to stow you tray table and bring the back of your seat to a full and upright position?
Well, you might not have to get on a plane, but I do. On February 23, I’ll be offering a seminar at UC Berkeley. It’s a non-degree, non-credit (too bad!) program and all are welcome to enroll. Over four hours, we’ll swirl, sniff and discuss the topic of just how natural wine is in a seminar entitled “Red, White and Green wine: can you taste the difference?” We will blind taste several pairs of wines, comparing organic and conventional and see if you can taste the difference (no advance knowledge of wine appreciation is necessary). Saturday, February 23, 1:00 – 5:00 PM. Further details and registration now online. I hope to see you there! I hasten to point out that this same class is 25% less expensive than when I offered a similar course at the University of Chicago last spring–a rare discount in California?!
Registration is also open for my next six week class at NYU, Becoming a Wine Expert. This course has enrollment limited to 25 because of venue size–the wood-paneled Torch Club. Last time the wait list was 75, most of whom were probably trying to get into Richard Brown’s Movies 101 course but clicked the wrong box or something. Feb 27 – April 9 Details and registration.
And look for more one-session classes in 2008!