In Vintners' Hall in London last night, at a dinner for the great and good of the international wine trade, I had the great pleasure of proposing the health of the Vintners' Company on its 650th anniversary. I had to adjust my speech at the last minute because of receiving news that the total number of Masters of Wine had just changed, rising by three to 304. (The Vintners played a key role in inaugurating the MW qualification.)
One of the new MWs is the fourth ever person to qualify as both an MW and an MS, a Master Sommelier. Eric Hemer MW MS works for the dominant wine distributor in the US, Southern Wine & Spirits, where he is educational director in Florida. (The other double Masters are Decanter's recently appointed Man of the Year Gerard Basset MW MS, Doug Frost MW MS of Missouri and Ronn Wiegand MW MS of California.) Eric teaches the Wine Certificate Course at Florida International University (FIU) and judges competitions run by the Guild of Sommeliers.
Alison Eisermann Ctercteko MW (pictured) is another wine educator, based in Sydney. She also has practical experience of winemaking, having established and managed the 110 ha Monument vineyard in Central New South Wales and subsequently producing six vintages therefrom. She has been a panel chair at the International Wine Challenge for the past six years, and lectures on wine in both Sydney and Hong Kong.
The third new MW is Adam Lapierre MW of San Francisco, who is national fine-wine sales manager at Frederick Wildman. He too has practical experience of wine production, having started out working for a large winery in New York's Finger Lakes Region.
The new executive director of the Institute of Masters of Wine Penny Richards commented, 'We are delighted to welcome Adam, Alison, and Eric as the first new Masters of Wine of this, our sixtieth anniversary year. We are intensely proud of the commitment and application they have shown in achieving their success, and we hope to be able to celebrate with them at our annual reception and awards ceremony in London later this year. Well done to all of them.'
As our Richard Hemming knows to his cost, to become an MW nowadays, it is not enough to pass all the particularly punishing and wide-ranging exams. You have to submit and - even more difficult - have approved a wine-related dissertation. Results for dissertations submitted to the Institute are released in spring and in autumn and the Institute therefore apparently expects to announce more new Masters of Wine later in the year.
Richard is just one of dozens of students who have passed the exams but are still to have their dissertation approved. It may of interest therefore to note the subjects of these three successful dissertations:
Eric Hemer MW MS: 'What's next for Argentina: can Bonarda achieve success in the United States on-trade market?'
Alison Eisermann Ctercteko MW: 'Monitoring the incidence and nature of screwcap closure damage, its effect on aromatic wine quality and the implications for storage and handling: an investigation of Sauvignon Blanc.'
Adam Lapierre MW: 'Factors affecting brand loyalty among sommeliers in San Francisco, California.'
Narrow focus seems to be the key. We wish all aspiring MWs the very best of luck.