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Mark Lipton
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Default "Wine Geekdom's Biggest Prize"

An article appeared in the NY Times today on the MW (Masters of Wine)
program and the rigors of studying for the exam:

It makes for interesting reading and may help dissuade potential MW

Mark Lipton
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Mathew Kagis
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Default "Wine Geekdom's Biggest Prize"

"Mark Lipton" > wrote in message
> An article appeared in the NY Times today on the MW (Masters of Wine)
> program and the rigors of studying for the exam:
> It makes for interesting reading and may help dissuade potential MW
> candidates.
> Mark Lipton

Mark: Thanks for the link. I'm finding studying for my Sommelier exam
tough enough.... I can't imagine what those folks go through. Respect to


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Max Hauser
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Default "Wine Geekdom's Biggest Prize"

"Mark Lipton" in ...
> An article appeared in the NY Times today on the MW (Masters of Wine)
> program and the rigors of studying for the exam:

Yes indeed -- link gives a registration fill form; not being able to find
out quickly if I'm already signed up with that publication and having spent
most of my allotted NG time transcribing just now from an old book [a
trivial point, please don't respond re the "registration" matter] I skip it
temporarily and offer the following first-person observation on US coverage
of the Master of Wine credential, which is certainly anecdotal but might be

This credential and its difficulty surfaces repeatedly in the last 50 years
of Anglophone wine writing (which is the period of the bulk of my wine books
and publications). What I found interesting is its changing coverage in US
wine media. During the long period when the chief market for US specialty
wine-criticism periodicals appears to have been earnest enthusiasts who want
to learn, like many of us reading this newsgroup, articles profiling the MW
program were periodic and respectful. The MW examinations were a recognized
standard for testing if, basically, someone could demonstrate, in objective
circumstances, the smell and taste nuances, and knowledge of wine styles,
that he or she claimed. The bottom line in wine tasting.

Something happened however in US wine journalism starting around 20 years
ago, I cannot say authoritatively, but it seems the have been an expansion
of the market for specialized wine journalism beyond its traditional
subscriber base, toward a wider US market, less focused possibly on a
pilgrimage of long-term wine knowledge and more on immediate buying advice.
This change was anyway synchronous with the novel "numerical" ratings
phenomenon -- examined concisely but with rare breadth and perspective by
Haeger, I'll again mention, in

-- and for that matter, if you had more than saintly patience you could even
trace some of the same shift by reading the 22-year history of wine postings
on public Internet newsgroups (though the process would, of course, drive
you mad). This shift in wine journalism was most evident in two specific
publications that popularized the recent form of "numerical" rating method
(that is, one of them pioneered it and the other copied it -- along with,
eventually, other publications, some of them with longer histories of wine
writing). At the same time you stopped seeing the MW cited admiringly, or
even mentioned at all, as a standard. Indeed as a new generation of
ill-paid 25-year-olds came to wine writing (as they routinely do) and this
new generation heard little of the MW, and much of numbers on a 50-100 point
scale, this generation proceeded to do as such people do and presume, very
mistakenly, that things had always been the way they found them. (I have
explicit examples on file, I am not making this up.) The idea that
someone's claims to smell and taste and recognize types and vintages of
wines could be verified by actually testing it got pushed back out of view
in the major media to the extent, indeed, that it ever was in view to some
of those writing.

Now I am probably doing this topic and these media injustice but that is the
upshot I have observed, from considerable if not comprehensive published
evidence, and why, therefore, I find it novel and refreshing to hear, again,
in mainstream US media, what sounds like a serious profile of the MW
program. (The subject may even strike some younger wine journalists as
novel for reasons _other_ than its recent conspicuous absence.)

Max Hauser

(Copyright 2004)

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