Category Archives: Master Of Wine Studies

Finding Time to Write

Now that I’m back in the MW program,quotes on writing:quotes on writing pick up a pen and write I remember why I always had such a hard time getting weekly posts up. It’s so hard to find time to write. I only have so much time set aside during the week and with two assignments due last week it was maxed out.

I want to find time to write, however life seems to happen so quickly and there are so many things that need to be written. Blog posts, MW assignments, tasting notes, harvest notes, and the book I’ve been meaning to start on. There are so many hours in the day and outside of getting up at 5am to write (which I will probably need to start doing soon) I don’t have many options with a 3 year old at home.

Writing is Rewarding

Anyway, I write today, not to complain about my lack of time for writing but to share with you all the fun opportunities that I have to do so. Writing this blog is one of the most rewarding things. I am so excited when someone says they read it. It makes all the time and effort worth it that others care what I have to say; something that constantly amazes me. I am also thrilled at being able to write MW assignments again. Crazy? Probably. I’m accepting that and moving on in my nutzo state. There are three years of MW exam theory questions I haven’t written yet so I need to get on those so I can say I’ve written the last 15 years of exam questions instead of only the years of 2001-2012.  Now where is my fishbowl???

I keep meaning to write up the vintage notes for 2015 because by the time you need them for tasting notes you’ve generally forgotten what happened during the vintage. I have little post it notes around the house from weather events and harvest dates for each of the wines I made this year that stare at me accusingly for not sitting down and writing them up.  Then there is my book idea.  I’m not even sure it is a fully formed idea yet but my thought was to sit down and start writing and see what it turns into.  My best ideas generally start this way but I need time to see how it will go.  This is last on my priority list right now with at least 500 other things in front of it daily.

“If you have other things in your life—family, friends, good productive day work—these can interact with your writing and the sum will be all the richer.”
– David Brin

So back onto the crazy train I go with the MW work.  My day job is challenging and rewarding.  My family life is good but exhausting as it should be.  I have lots of great subject matter to write about.  Now if only I can find the time…



Back on the Horse: My Return to the MW Program

 Last week I received confirmation that I can officially call myself an MW student again.  This past year has been extremely strange, living on the periphery of a program that has been a huge part of my professional life. For those who are new to following the journey on my blog I will give you a brief history.

I graduated Cornell back in 2006.  In 2007, I discovered the Master of Wine program and decided to pursue it by first starting with the prerequisite WSET courses.  I completed my advanced WSET certificate in 2007 and started the Diploma program in 2008.  I was accepted into the MW program for the first year in the  2008-2009  which allowed me to complete my first year of the MW and the second year of the Diploma concurrently.  I sat the first year assessment in 2009 which I passed to move on to my first second year for the 2009-2010 academic year.  At the end of that year I attempted the MW exam the first time of what would be five attempts the results of which I have out lined in detail over the course of this blog.

Fast forward to today, and I’m getting ready to start another second year ending in a sixth time sitting the exam.  I have to sit the entire exam over again (I passed theory back in 2012 but due to my timing out have lost that credit).  Having to sit theory again really doesn’t bother me.  I always liked the theory portion and having passed it once I’m fairly certain I can do it again.  The practical continues to be my nemesis.  I was at a place in 2014 where I was enjoying the tastings and looking forward to the exam. I’m convinced my downfall at that period was the fact my palate was not calibrated correctly due to excessive tasting sessions at work of 14.5%+ young Napa Cabernets.  My ability to adequately judge alcohol and acid had been compromised and I was not able to recover from it completely for the exam. I should not have the same issue this time around so assuming I can get back in prime tasting shape, this year should be my year.

I am excited to share this news since that means I can reopen the Master of Wine Studies section of my blog as well as I chronicle my journey through this program.  I hope that these posts serve to inspire, educate, and realistically inform others who are interested in the program to the rigors that it entails.  For everyone else, hopefully you will join me in reveling in my triumphs, wallowing in my despair, and eventually celebrate with me at some point in the future.  It’s up and down so be prepared for the ride.

But Why is the Wine Gone? – Part II: New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

Philip Gregan says a bumper harvest could lead to a glut of wine. Photo / Richard RobinsonSeveral weeks ago I covered the potential shortage of Prosecco in But Why is the Wine Gone Part I.  This week I wanted to uncover another potential shortage on the other side of the wine world. This shortage was publicized also by the Drinks Business back in June and I quickly caught up with Phillip Gregan, Chief Executive Officer of the New Zealand Winegrowers association (NZWG).  After the overstated shortage of Prosecco, I wanted to find out what was driving this rumored shortage and how impactful it would be on the supply of New Zealand’s signature Sauvignon Blanc.

“Volume is Much Smaller than in 2014”

Apparently this one is real.  It is mainly caused by a perfect storm of market phenomena: short supply and high demand.  According to Gregan “demand has been rising for 25 years and the 2015 vintage was much smaller than 2014.”  Their demand numbers are based on export volume which is growing at about 7% per year in a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) and export value growing at 6% per year CAGR .

It is possible that demand will eventually outpace the available land in New Zealand. There have already been rumblings that Marlborough is almost planted out on all available land.  One wonders if the NZWG could capitalize on other regions which could grow Sauv Blanc that are less well known around the world outside of Marlborough.  Gregan stated “Yes! Without a doubt, but those other regions have yet to build the reputation that Marlborough has [and] that takes time of course.” Some of these include Nelson, Waipara, Martinborough, Wairarapa and Hawkes Bay.

The Swinging Pendulum

Of course many in the industry know that oversupply and undersupply is a constantly swinging pendulum and can change in the span of one vintage to another.  Even as recent as mid-2014 there were concerns of oversupply in New Zealand after two large crops of 2013 and 2014.  There was an oversupply and dropping grape and land prices back in 2008.  Even though there is a shortage now, I wanted to know if the NZWG were doing anything to mitigate an oversupply risk for the future.  Philisophically, Gregan points out “There will always be a year to year risk around over-supply/shortage that is the nature of an agriculturally based industry.  What [the NZWG] do is provide as much information to the industry as possible about supply, demand, prices etc to enable wineries and growers to plan for the future.”

“North America will be the major driver of growth over the next five years.”

Speaking of the future, there is always a concern about will demand continue at the current pace and where the NZWG feel their market is moving.  What markets are their focus right now?  “North America will be the major driver of growth over the next five years. Beyond that we expect China to be increasingly important. They are both very big markets in which current NZ wine penetration is relatively low, so there is a lot of upside” states Gregan.

Phillip Gregan Photo / Richard Robinson

New Zealand Landscape photo from Saint Clair Family Estate Wines