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MW scribbles no 1: deep breath.

“Real courage is when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”– Harper Lee

I cling to that quote as I set about this educational journey which parallels no other that I have attempted to this point– even my M.A. in Lit seemed much more accessible than this. Only weeks ago I saw the words I have been working towards for several years now: “It gives me great pleasure to inform you that you have been accepted to join the Master of Wine study programme.” I reveled for just a moment in the length and depth of that sentence, knowing it was the only brief breath I would ignorantly remove myself from the weight of what was to come.

Now, about 5 weeks, a course day in Napa, and the first real weekend of cranking out several hours of study later, I am at once as excited as I was at that moment but very much feeling the enormity this certification will entail. As it should. There is good reason that currently there are about as many students studying in the Master of Wine program as there are actual Masters of Wine– roughly 300. When they say that it is a degree reflective of the understanding the life of a wine in its full expression– from vine to wine, bottle to table– there are no cutting corners. Whether rootstock or blending, oxygen transmission rates or segregated market analysis, this program is designed to push the limits of understanding the why of wine. Why, for example, do you consume as you do? What propels you to purchase a bottle? How might rootstock selection help or hinder the expression of terroir? How do bags in boxes affect the flavor and quality of wine?

To give myself permission to spend hours marinating in these questions, I become as giddy as a grad student– it is about as close as one can get in the wine industry to a formalized degree along with that of another famous credential–Master Sommelier. The intensity of it is so appealing to me, if not just more than a little daunting. But as I begin this long road (several years– 3 if I am flying), I can’t help but set my intentions as that of pure curiosity and dedication. It should be the trail and not the trail’s end that is the focus. A deeper appreciate of all aspects of this ancient fermented process is what will further connect me to place, farmer and a plant life’s poetry.

If you see ‘MW Scribbles’ every now and again, check in with me. A blog entry means I need to work through some of this stuff out loud. Before enrolling in this endeavor, I only had a vague sense what it was about… I still feel I am walking in a room with only a shimmer of indirect light to guide me. I hope to put the rest some of these uncertainties in January when I meet with other first year students around the world to better understand this academic process. In the meantime, I will scribble what seems to me to be a good study plan for the coming weeks preceding the workshop– sketching a good 15 hours or more each week to research the wonders of grape juice. Perhaps it will help others who want to take a peek into this process. I know I have been greatly enjoying the wonderfully written “Diary of an MW Student” by Richard Hemming on Jancis Robinson’s website. Thank you Mr. Hemming for your words so far– they make me feel so much less isolated in this often isolating study process to come!


About mistralwine1982

Originally from Wisconsin, I moved to Colorado in 2005 in order to get closer to the mountains and rock climb. When it occurred to me that I would never make money with that hobby, I went to grad school. I received a masters in English and American Literature from New York University in May of 2009. I have since then opted not to pursue a PhD, for studying and writing about wine is far more fascinating (well, perhaps not moreso than Virginia Woolf, but still… for the long haul?). My favorite wines come from the old world, especially the Rhone, Burgundy, Rioja, Piedmont, and Tuscany. I am also smitten with roses, Italian hard-to-pronounce white varietals, and dessert wines from around the world. By day I run a wine shop. By nite, I sip and tell. It’s rough… but someone must do this.


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