I have a vision of the wine industry that highlights the opportunities that are available to those whose perspective is different than the mainstream, that the wine business is ripe for disruption and innovation. My Master of Wine training has provided me a unique view of the wine word, one that sees all aspects of the wine business from different angles. I challenge the norm, work on developing successful brands and products, but also have fun! Because, after all, it’s just wine!
I’m involved in a number of ventures – when people ask me what I’m doing with wine, I like to describe it as “I don’t make it and I don’t sell it, but I do everything in between!” You can keep track of all the projects I’m working on here at my web site, but don’t be surprised if you see my name popping up in any number of places. It seems like every day I see a new opportunity in the wine world. I say I’m not going to make wine, but what about producing a label virtually? How about packaging this wine in a unique never-seen-before package? Yup, I’m thinking of it! So keep your eyes peeled on this website for updates on what I’m up to!
Born in England, educated in Canada, lived 20 years in San Francisco, I am now based in Barcelona with my fantastic wife, Melinda, and our two beautiful daughters, Alexis & Emma.
What is a Master of Wine?
The Master of Wine qualification signifies the pinnacle of tasting ability and knowledge about the global wine trade. Currently there are just 369 Masters of Wine in the world.
Becoming an MW involves passing three different challenges: closed-book Theory exams, blind Tasting exams, and also a comprehensive Research Paper.
The four day Theory exam consists of 13 essays spanning from viticulture to vinification – all aspects of wine aging, handling and QC – the business of wine – and contemporary issues. The exam does not test memorization skill, rather it tests the ability to understand and communicate about the complex highly segmented world of wine. Example questions are: “What practical options does a viticulturist have at his or her disposal to address long term changes in climate in an established vineyard?”; “What are the commercial advantages and disadvantages of packing/bottling wine in the local market of consumption? Is this trend a good thing for the wine industry?”; “Which is more important in wine: tradition or innovation?”
The Tasting exam spans three days, each one consisting of 12 wines tasted blind. With long form writing, MW candidates are asked to analyze each wine, with typical questions being to argue what the origin is (often down to appellation), what the grape variety is, style and quality, and commercial potential. Of note, the wines focus not just on luxury classic wines but also wines of significant commercial relevance – the exam can have both Grand Cru Burgundy and a $7 mass market Moscato in the same exam!
Once the Theory and Tasting exams are passed (which can take many attempts), there is then a Research Paper phase, which is a year-long endeavor to show ability to perform comprehensive and in-depth analysis on a topic of original research. My Research Paper was titled “An analysis of the impact of declining farm labor immigration on vineyard operations in Sonoma and Napa counties of the last decade”.
But achieving the MW has been more than just passing blind tastings and closed book theory exams and a research paper. Ultimately, preparing for and passing MW has provided me with the palate and knowledge to know great wine from merely good wine. But it has also instilled in me a feeling that while knowledge of the world of wine is important, wine is still supposed to be a social beverage – one that brings people together at the table, to enjoy conviviality, food and life! Salud!