Welcome to Vine Geeks, where Brian Reeder and Pavle Milic of AZ Wine Merchants take the drinking game quite seriously. Pay attention -- you might just learn something.
This past week, a record 98 students took the test to obtain their Masters of Wine, trying to join the mere 298 worldwide who currently hold the title. The test involves comprehensive wine theory (writing four papers) and a rigorous practical exam (three blind tastings over three days). If they pass both areas, the candidate has to submit a dissertation to the board of education for The Institute of Masters of Wine.
Subject matter is said to include everything wine-related -- questions could pertain to soil types, grape growing, winemaking, selling wine, marketing, and everything in between. Here are a few questions that were on this year's test:
When and how should racking be carried out? Assess the risks and benefits of the different procedures in racking wines.
What practical steps may be taken to avoid Brettanomyces contamination in a winery, and why?
Analyze the ways in which changing the trellising system in a vineyard can have an impact on the yields and health of the vines.
What technical issues should be considered when assessing any THREE of the following packaging formats for wine? a) Lightweight glass bottles b) Tetra prisma c) PET d) Bag-in-box
Okay, so I'm glad I'm waiting until next year to apply.
One time in college I drank pretty heavily the night before an exam, and, the next morning, I wandered into the wrong testing room. It wasn't until midway through the second essay question that I realized not only did I not have a clue what I had written, but that I did not know a damn thing about marine biology. Only then did I understand the inquisitive looks from the master's students sitting around my wildly hungover sophomoric self. I quickly excused myself and dragged myself to my finance exam, where I didn't fare much better.
I feel like this test would have gone about the same. Except that at least I could have been drinking during this one.
Here are all the wines the 98 brave souls tasted and identified such characteristics as specific origin and grape varieties.They also had to compare and contrast among groups, and discuss quality and style of winemaking. Day 1 2010 Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine Sur Lie, Château de la Bretesche, Loire, France 2010 Vouvray Sec Cuvée Silex, D. Vigneau- Chevreau, Loire, France 2010 Menetou Salon Cuvée Beatrice, Henry Pellé, Loire, France 2009 Coteaux du Layon Chaume, Domaine des Forges, Loire, France 2010 Forte Alto Pinot Grigio, Alto-Adige, Italy 2011 Wither Hills Pinot Gris, Marlborough, New Zealand 2009 Zind Humbrecht Pinot Gris reserve, Alsace, France 2008 Puligny Montrachet, 1er Cru Perrieres, Jean Louis Chavy, Burgundy, France 2008 Meursault, Pierre Morey, Burgundy, France 2008 Corton Charlemagne, Patrick Javillier, Burgundy, France 2008 Tahbilk Marsanne, Victoria, Australia 2010 Crozes-Hermitage blanc, Alain Graillot, Rhone, France
2010 Santa Rita '120' Carmenere, Central Valley, Chile 2009 Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California 2009 Yalumba 'The Cigar' Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonawarra, Australia 2008 Lady May, Glenelly, Stellenbosch, South Africa 2006 Chateau Quinault L'Enclos Grand Cru, St Emilion, Bordeaux 2007 Geremia, Rocca di Montegrossi, Tuscany, Italy 2008 Claus Preisinger Zweigelt, Burgenland, Austria 2008 Vale do Bomfim, Dow, Douro, Portugal 2008 Becker Estate Pinot Noir, Pfalz, Germany 2008 Fess Parker's Vineyard Syrah, JC Cellars, Santa Barbara, California 2007 Cornas Les Vieilles Vignes, Alain Voge, Rhone, France 2010 Mollydooker, The Boxer [shiraz], South Australia
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2004 Louis Roederer Brut Vintage, Champagne, France NV Louis Roederer Brut Premier, Champagne, France 2005 Huet Vouvray Petillant, Loire, France NV Jacob's Creek Sparkling Shiraz, South East Australia NV Brancott Estate Sauvignon Blanc Brut, Marlborough, New Zealand NV Beringer Sparkling Zinfandel Rosé, California, USA 2009 Zeltinger Himmelreich Riesling Eiswein "Junior", Selbach Oster, Mosel, Germany 2009 Tamar Ridge Kayena Botrytis Riesling, Tasmania, Australia NV Martini, Asti, Piedmont, Italy NV Rivesaltes Muscat [producer unknown], vin doux naturel, France NV Barefoot Moscato, California 2009 Moscato Passito Di Pantelleria, "Ben Ryé", Sicily, Italy
If you want to see how you'd stack up against the best, you can download the full examination here. I will warn you, though, better to have a glass before you delve too deep.