By: Siobhan Turner

I was asked about what I was looking forward to most about the presentations and training in London and Hong Kong that are coming up in the next few months.  This seemed like an easy question at first, and then, as I explored it, more and more waves uncovered, so I thought I would write briefly about it, to get my own thoughts straight, and to explore why the trainer might be as excited as a trainee.

The first part is simply that it is very exciting to be given a chance to spread this particular gospel, and to be in a room with people who actually CARE about wine authenticity.  I cannot tell you how much this matters.  I also cannot tell you how frustrated and then angry I get when I come across people who simply don’t care that they are selling fakes.  I examined some wine for a client who does care, passionately.  Unfortunately, hanging around on the periphery was the vendor who was trying to sell it to her.  His reaction was telling – when we told him the wine was fake, his response started at “it can’t be” and moved on to “so what, the buyer will never know”.  In other words, this was someone who was more than willing to knowingly sell a fake product to a client – and, let us not forget, a fake product that the client would consume.  This was someone who would knowingly risk someone’s life for the sake of a sale.  Really?  So the thing I am most looking forward to is, absolutely, being with people who do care, who do think it is important, and who do want to learn.

The second part is being in a room with Maureen, and learning myself.  Yes, I will be one of the trainers.  That is seriously cool.  But make no mistake, I shall also be learning myself, reinforcing and remembering what I already knew, and refining the details.  Practice is always important, and this is a really good chance to practice, and to learn more.  For me, it is a bit like a master class, and who would not look forward to that.

And finally, on a purely superficial note, I have never been to Hong Kong.  Am I excited about going there?  Hell yes!  And if anyone has a favourite haunt or a particular place they think I should visit, I would love to hear that too.

By: Aaron Patrick

While studying for the Somm exam, Chai Consulting’s Cellar Manager is often asked what his favorite wine is. His response? That’s like asking a mother with a 100 kids which is her favorite! I mean she has it narrowed down to her top ten on any given day, but she can’t pick her favorite. There are wines/regions I can drink all the time. Overall, when I do drink wine I’m looking for great values.

Champagne is my Achilles heel; I could drink it daily. I believe you can find more value than ever when buying champagne right now. When it comes to Champagne, I don’t discriminate. I will buy wine from négociant producers- who are buying grapes and juice from the over 15,000 grower producers- to some of the same grower producers who used to sell their grapes and now make their own wine.

I also love the crisp, refreshing and sometimes nutty wines of Chablis. Chablis offers amazing value at any level, whether you are buying village level bottlings to Premier or even up to Grand Cru. Two vintages I am enamored with because of their amazing acidity are 2012 and the recent 2014 vintages.

One underrated wine that can be amazing and extremely complex is Chianti! The Sangiovese grape can be undervalued and even passed off as peasant wine, but at it’s peak, and from great producers, it over delivers. I love it’s ability to pair well with food as well!

By: Siobhan Turner

As the former Executive Director of the Institute of Masters of Wine, what was the relevance of wine authentication to the organization?

Wow!  This is a difficult question to answer, and it must be done from a number of different perspectives.

The first, and easiest, way to tackle this question is to ask if it is part of the MW syllabus.  The answer is yes, although not explicitly.  One of the things I particularly like about the MW exam is that its syllabus has a flexibility to it that requires MW candidates to be aware of virtually everything that is going on in the world of wine, which obviously includes counterfeits.  I think it is safe to say that counterfeit wines are unlikely to be on the Practical exam (not least because it would be both impractical, illegal and and unethical to buy them, not to mention the legal implications of knowingly putting students at risk by making them ingest them).

However, wine authenticity is something of huge relevance to the theory portion of the exam, both directly, such as this question from 2014: “To what extent is fake wine a problem in today’s wine market?” and as a critical element of other questions addressing branding, distribution strategy, secondary markets, labels and a wide variety of other topics.  In addition, the third part of the exam, the Dissertation (now Research Paper) is a prime area of focus should someone wish to delve into the topic, as Rhys Pender MW did for his dissertation.

Beyond the study element, is wine authentication relevant to the Institute of Masters of Wine?

There are individual MWs for whom I have an enormous amount of respect in the Institute who take the matter very seriously indeed.  Serena Sutcliffe MW, former head of Sotheby’s wine department, is head and shoulders at the top of this list, but I would be remiss not to mention David Molyneux-Berry MW, Clive Coates MW, and David Peppercorn MW as included in this group.  Sheri Morano MW actively works in wine authentication for Chai Consulting.  Rhys Pender MW wrote his dissertation on the topic, with specific relevance to top Californian producers, and for producers like Fiona Morrison MW (Le Pin, L’If) it is a matter of utmost importance.

There are others, however, for whom counterfeit wine is viewed as much less of an issue than, in my opinion, it should be, and as a result, it is not something on which the Institute as a whole has been seen to take a firm position.  I think this is a missed opportunity, and one that would be welcomed by the vast majority of its members and by its supporters.  It will be interesting to see if this develops as awareness of the breadth and depth of the issue increases.