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Keeping up with wine

Can one ever really be a “master” of wine?

I asked three of my friends— Sally Mohr, Master Sommelier and former owner of the Boulder Wine Merchant in Colorado; Peter Marks, Master of Wine and vice president of education at Constellation Wines; and David Stevens, who received his master’s degree in enology from UC Davis and currently works as a winemaking consultant—what they do to keep their edge.

All three are still avid learners via professional classes. They also, not surprisingly, do a lot of tastings. Tasting wines with others is key. Sally often finds herself in blind tasting exercises with aspiring Master Sommeliers, while Peter organizes practice tasting sessions for Master of Wine students. “By leading these wine tastings,” he says, “I keep abreast of wines, regions, winemaking techniques, styles, quality and maturity for wines from all over the world.” David, who admits he is of a technical bent, likes tasting with “folks who also understand the general principles of wine chemistry and production... because they already know the basic faults that can be found in wine and usually have at least some idea of what the wine we are tasting should be like.”

Tap Into Online Resources

The lists of resources each of my friends uses are themselves inspiring. Decanter.com and winebusiness.com are Sally’s favorites. Peter subscribes to the sites for the Benson Marketing Group, Wine & Spirits Daily, and Industry News Update, as well as a few outside the industry such as The New York Times and The Economist. “I frequently research information on producer and regional trade sites and use Able-Grape.com as a wine search engine when I’m looking for a particular topic,” he says. David quips, “I also hit the silly tasting note generator (www.gmon.com/tech/output.shtml).”

Explore New Worlds

All three continue to be drawn to new subjects in wine. “The whole area of so-called ‘tannin management’ is of huge interest to me,” says David. “The process of extracting and, perhaps more important, retaining these pesky compounds is not well-understood. The chemistry of this type of compound is profoundly difficult.” Peter is interested in the wines of South America. “Not only Chile and Argentina, but Uruguay and Brazil, too,” he says. “Partly because I’ve never been to these countries, but also because I’m fascinated by the high quality/price ratio that’s been achieved by South American wines with a minimal amount of investment.” Not surprisingly, there is a maturity, perspective and true sense of having fun with wine that comes from being so accomplished. “I enjoy wine on an almost daily basis and love finding new wines to learn about,” says Sally. Peter shares his secret: “To stay interested in wine, you need to have other interests. Wine can be overwhelming.” As Peter put it, “The most important lesson I learned when I passed the Master of Wine exam is that wine can never truly be mastered.”

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