EDITOR’S NOTE—Wine, Initially
Members of the Britain-based Institute of Masters of Wine may consider Bordeaux their backyard. But Aquitaine, once part of the empire, has never before been the site of their Masters of Wine Symposium—a convention of wine’s intelligentsia that takes place every four years.
The 1996 Symposium had convened in Napa Valley, attended by one Jacques Lurton, then studying for the MW with Fiona Morrison as his mentor. Lurton returned from Napa with the idea of bringing the event to Bordeaux—the Quai des Chartrons at the time was undergoing a major facelift, scheduled to be completed well in advance of their four–year deadline. He convinced Morrison that they should put his studies aside—and that they should pick up their address books and get to work. By the time 2010 rolled around, Bordeaux’s grey, sooty buildings had been polished to gleaming limestone and the 2009 wines had broken all price records, recession be damned. The city was once again the center of the wine world, hosting more than half of the 280 Masters of Wine and an equal number of others, from legends like Paul Draper, Egon Müller and Alvaro Palacios, to Internet gurus, Asian market specialists, exam candidates and a few odd writers.
The Bordelais were also in attendance, including two father—son teams who spoke on passing the torch at Château Haut—Brion (Jean–Bernard and Jean–Philippe Delmas) and Château Pé trus (Jean–Claude and Olivier Berrouet). There was plenty of food and wine for thought—some of the most interesting commentary from the sessions presented on pages 22 through 24.
The Institute of Masters of Wine, now open to anyone who can pass the rigorous exam, originated as a kind of elite trade guild for wine merchants in the UK. The Court of Master Sommeliers is a sort of parallel for those whose work revolves around wine in restaurants. Six of our seven Best New Sommeliers (p. 14) cite the MS credential as their current goal. Earlier this spring, I spent a week in Australia with last year’s crop of Best New Sommeliers—so I couldn’t help but compare their approach to wine with the MW folk I met in Bordeaux.
Sure, there’s a little crossover, with a few committed geeks who have earned both an MW and an MS. But generally they are different personalities: an MW trades, an MS performs. You’ve got to be a great taster to earn either credential, but service, as part of the MS exam, changes the dynamic. An MS, and by extension, any one of our Best New Sommeliers, would be eager to entertain you with wine. Book a table—we think you’ll enjoy the performance.