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60 years a Master of Wine

At the Annual Award Ceremony in November, as well as welcoming the 18 new Masters of Wine, the Institute honoured three Members who passed the MW examination in 1957. Colin Anderson MW, John Clevely MW and Vincent Larvan MW have now been Masters of Wine for a glorious 60 years (see Vintage Masters of Wine news release). Here, Colin reflects on his time in the wine trade and his 60 years as a Master of Wine.

I’m lucky to have been in the Wine Trade at a time when the whole show has moved from being a tiny, old-fashioned, local, niche market to the enormous worldwide drinks industry of today.

Starting work soon after the second world war, when the infant wine trade was just getting back on its feet, those were the days of Commonwealth Preference customs duty, VP British wine, Cyprus Sherry and South African Port. While the British wines provided alcohol, the commonwealth blends competed well in quality. The South Africans made fortified wines that knocked spots off many wines from Jerez and Oporto. It was the wild West. Then the first Trade Descriptions Act came in 1968 and things calmed down.

The Duty rates encouraged bulk handling, and labelling regulations were still open to wide interpretation. Luckily, we were at the quality end of the market. I remember doing the last bottling in the UK of first growth Claret – Ch. Margaux 1955. The Chateau supplied the labels. Such was their confidence that we could handle their wine carefully and correctly.

The 1960s and early 1970s saw the emergence of New World wines, and suddenly even more people were drinking wine. The developing interest in wine encouraged the big breweries to develop the wine side of their business, and the era of trade takeovers began. Small local wine businesses were taken over as valuable additions to the regional breweries and they, in turn, amalgamated to become national. Follow the money. The big brewers became wine merchants. Gradually, with the help of big wine brands, the public awoke to wine as a social experience, and sales shot up again.

In the space of ten years I got taken over, with the stock, four times. From small local, to regional and then national. I never applied for another job, they just came to me because, luckily, I was in the right place at the right time. And, perhaps, because people thought that the letters MW meant that I knew what I was talking about.

The developing clamour to be heard, from growers, traders and wine critics, grows louder and louder. At the same time the range of good wines on the UK market becomes wider and wider.

I watch with interest the development of small specialist wine merchants, and wonder whether the wheel will turn full circle.

What goes around comes around, and I also wonder about Customs duties and Commonwealth Preference post Brexit. Could the wonderful wines of New Zealand, South Africa and Australia be looking at an even brighter future in the UK at the same time as the Institute is spreading its wings worldwide? Things look promising.

Colin Anderson MW

New Rioja tasting

Avowed hispanophile Tim Atkin MW moderated this insight into the current direction of travel of Spain’s most famous wine region. What became clear from his introduction and the subsequent tasting was that within Rioja there is an increasing focus on terroir and site specific wines from vineyard owning winemakers, as a foil to the more traditional intra-regional blends of fruit from a myriad of contracted growers. These wines, almost without exception, eschewed the traditional age related quality hierarchy, instead using an aging regime designed to express the quality of the site and fruit, rather than put it in a prescriptive oak strait jacket. All the wines exhibited a freshness and clarity of fruit expression that was in contrast to many of Rioja’s offerings.

The producers on the panel included Sandra Bravo, one of the leading lights of Rioja Roll, whose Nahi 2016 had remarkable texture for a non skin contact white, complimented by her two single vineyard and savoury reds, the 2015 Rivas de Tereso tempranillo and the 2016 la Dula garnacha. David Sampredo showcased his blended 2013 Phincas red, his remarkably spicy and profound 2013 Phinca Lali single vineyard tempranillo with a traditional smattering of white viura, and a magnificent, unashamedly oxidative white, the 2011 Phinca la Revilla. Luis C. Valentin González of Valenciso, accountant turned winemaker, shared with us his 70% viura, 30% garnacha blanca white, and two expressions of tempranillo, the 2010 reserva and the 2005 “10 añ0s después”. His wines demonstrated a deft hand with oak. Miguel Merino Navajas, now working with his father at the family winery, gave us a lovely floral 2016 white blend of viura and garnacha blanca, a modern take on a reserva from 2010 and an intriguing 2014 Mazuelo that delighted on the evening, but would be interesting to re-taste in a few years. The formal part of the evening concluded with iconic winemaker and wine academic Juan Carlos Sancha whose enthusiasm for Rioja, garnacha and the region’s more esoteric and forgotten grapes shone through both in his presentation and in the glass, the 2016 Maturana Blanca being a new grape to most in the room, and the two 2015 Peña El Gato garnachas (Terroirs Manolo López and Juan Carlos Sanchez respectively) having all the savoury spiciness and heft one would wish for, but with a lovely balancing acidity. Their contrasting characters was a well-chosen lesson in site specifics.

This enlightening evening concluded with a walkaround tasting that enabled those present to taste a further twelve wines from the panellists.

Martin Hudson MW

Adelaide seminar

The academic year is underway with the first Educational seminar held at the National Wine Centre in Adelaide on the 19-24 of November. Sixty students attended, a big increase in numbers over last year and it was especially pleasing to see so many students from across Europe, Asia and the USA joining the cohort from Australia and New Zealand. The truly international nature of the seminar brought an extra dimension of richness to the experience for students and MWs alike.

For Stephen Wong MW and myself, this year marked our first time coordinating the seminar on our own, taking over the reins from Jane Skilton MW & David Le Mire MW. These were big shoes to fill and needless to say at the start of the week we were both filled with nervous trepidation. Despite months of planning, it was only when Stephen and I were both on the ground in Adelaide that we both sensed the full magnitude of the task at hand.

We needn’t have worried. Assembled in Adelaide was an absolutely stellar team of MWs from Australia, NZ and the globe. United by the same motivation, to help every student maximise their potential to pass the exams, the team swung into action, working together like a well oiled machine to ensure wines were opened and prepared for the various mock exams and tastings and working tirelessly to ensure marking and feedback were completed on time.

The MWs involved also contributed their time and expertise to run various theory sessions that spanned the syllabus on everything from the wine market in China, and the nitty gritty of pH in winemaking, to viticultural challenges in British Columbia.

The seminar week culminated in a field trip to Petaluma in the Adelaide Hills, where the students could see a bottling line in action and enjoyed an excellent series of talks on viticulture, winemaking, technical production considerations and marketing from the senior team at Accolade wines. For students and MWs, it was a wonderful chance to get out into wine country and gain an overview of the theory syllabus through the lens of a single wine business.

On behalf of Stephen and myself, I would like to thank our Australasian coordinator Emily Robinson, Head of Study and Development Olly Chapman and the entire team of MWs who attended from near and far. The amazing teamwork and warm collegiate atmosphere was at the heart of the success of this year’s seminar and we couldn’t have done it without you.

The dedication and enthusiasm of the students was palpable and they all left the week feeling highly motivated to kick-start their studies for the year. After such a wonderful debut coordinating the seminar, Stephen and I look forward to doing it all again next year.

Andrea Pritzker MW

Masters of Wine Endowment Auction

Masters of Wine Endowment Auction

In November 2017 the Masters of Wine Endowment Company raised over £1.1 million from a live auction of Super Lots and an online auction. The money raised was for an Endowment Fund, held by the Masters of Wine Endowment Company. The Fund will enable the IMW to extend its range of activities in the global wine world, enhance the support it gives to members worldwide and encourage the Masters of Wine of the future.



IMW Auction brochure in English
IMW Auction brochure in French
IMW Auction: The Super Lots


Masters of Wine Endowment Auction

Masters of Wine Endowment Auction

The Masters of Wine Endowment Company raised over £1.1 million from a live auction of Super Lots and an online auction.

The money raised was for an Endowment Fund, held by the Masters of Wine Endowment Company. The Fund will enable the IMW to extend its range of activities in the global wine world, enhance the support it gives to members worldwide and encourage the Masters of Wine of the future.

A dinner and live auction took place on 16 November 2017 at Bonhams, where bidders competed for 18 Super Lots, once-in-a-lifetime experiences from the great wine regions of the world. The evening embodied the best in the wine world, and the guests shared some extraordinary wines from impressive vintages, before bidding on some exceptional wine Lots. These included one-off opportunities from Screaming Eagle; Le Pin, Petrus, Lafleur, Cheval Blanc and Ausone; Bollinger and Jackson Family Wines, as well as many others.

A spontaneous additional Super Lot was added on the night from IMW supporter Berry Bros. & Rudd, for a private dinner with wines from their special reserves, which sold for £50,000. The Super Lots on the night raised an incredible £1,007,500.

In addition to the Super Lots, there were over 100 lots available online, also hosted by Bonhams. These lots raised £121,370 and included: a private dinner for six with Jancis Robinson MW and the Lander family at one of their award-winning London restaurants; one bottle of the 2014 vintage from every Grand Cru Classé en 1855 (Médoc & Sauternes) property; a collection of wines from all the Istituto Grandi Marchi producers; and many other wine adventures across the world.

The auction was initiated and instigated by three Masters of Wine, Richard Harvey MW (from Bonhams), Patrick McGrath MW and Fiona Morrison MW (Directors of the Masters of Wine Endowment Company).

Both auctions exceeded their target for the Endowment Fund. Jane Masters MW, IMW Chairman said, “We are still astonished at the result, and are so grateful for the generosity shown to the IMW. These funds will be invested in the short term and ultimately give us the opportunity to enhance our work across the international wine community for many years to come.”

Annual Claret tasting (2013 vintage) – London

It must be admitted that there was a touch of apprehension in advance as to whether there was an appetite to taste the 2013 Bordeaux vintage, but our doubts were unfounded. We had an excellent attendance, bolstered by a healthy crop of new MW’s in London for their awards that evening. Indeed it became clear that every year there seems to be a good reason to taste the vintage of the day – in this case probably that 2013 is the least expensive (as opposed to cheap…..) vintage on the market and so might present some interesting buys. Mind you, there is apparently very little stock of 2013 left on La Place and it was noticeable that, unusually, hardly any of the London brokers attended the event.

As for the wines, there were mixed feelings. Some felt that the wines lacked the intensity and energy expected at this level but on the plus side at least they were relatively easy to taste. Others certainly found some good things and it sounds as if there was approval for Pessac-Léognan, Saint-Julien, Saint Emilion and Pomerol in particular. There was also an excellent representation of Sauternes and Barsac, and these showed especially well. With many thanks as ever to the Châteaux and to the Conseil des Grands Crus Classés for their help in assembling such a wonderful range of wines to taste, to Dourthe for their help in collating and shipping the wines, to the MW’s and MW students who helped on the day and to those MW’s who kindly offered to write up the wines so that we can offer full feedback to the producers.

Richard Bampfield MW