Golden Vines applicants – Alec Merkt-Caprile

Alec Merkt-Caprile in Bordeaux in 2019

During the Taylor’s Port Golden Vines Diversity Scholarships application process, Alec Merkt-Caprile, pictured above in Bordeaux in 2019, drove across Canada from Ontario to British Columbia to relocate, which meant that his was the last of the 42 applications received. He did not win one of the two major scholarships to which he alludes below but was rewarded with a Wine Scholar Guild Scholarship.

Yes, I am ‘coloured’ and self-describe as a mutt. I have been mistaken for (and racially profiled as) everything from a light-skinned/part-Black person, Native American, Indigenous Latin American, South Asian, East Asian and Southeast Asian. Needless to say, I have experienced almost every kind of racism in my travels (but have also been welcomed and enjoyed generosity from every kind as well).

After working in beverage alcohol retail with the LCBO (Ontario monopoly) for five years, I went back to working in service/hospitality, both as a sommelier and a wine director. I also rekindled my wine business (several levels of consulting, events, education and a nascent agency). Sadly, COVID-19 had disastrous effects on my income and my business (I have been income-free for over a year now), but I am excited for the rest of 2021 and hoping to be able to continue the MW programme I had to defer last year due to financial reasons.

Thank you for this incredible opportunity! I am sure the entire industry is grateful for this impressive generosity and outstanding initiative. To me, the Master of Wine is the absolute pinnacle of scholarly wine education. It is the guiding light I have been working towards since I first started my academic journey (and career) in wine just over seven years ago. The Institute’s values, such as respect, excellence and learning, have been qualities I’ve valued most highly my entire life. The different academic aspects (from geology and geography to horticulture and organic chemistry) have been passions of mine since childhood.

This also encourages my passion for teaching and love for being able to support others by empowering myself – something I believe Master Basset understood all too well himself. My motivation to earn the Master of Wine (and the CWE and MS as well) is not only to prove my own worth to myself and my family, making myself and my family proud, and to inspire others to achieve excellence, but also to be able to be in a better position to help, support and guide others as well.

I have already been mentoring peers for some time (both formally and informally), and have also created masterclasses to help enrich the local industry community (as well as an educational programme for CNIB, the Canadian National Institute for the Blind), but I hope with a designation such as the MW, the experience and understanding I will be able to pass on from my journey will be that much greater, as will be my reach.

Earning the Master of Wine is my single highest priority, and a level I will continue to strive towards even after graduating. Having earned 100% on numerous accreditations and the highest grade in the world on more, I am confident in my ability to achieve the most prestigious designations, such as MS and MW. I appreciate this will be a challenge – in fact, I relish this fact. To be considered among such legends is an honour I will always endeavour to be worthy of.

As a BIPOC and LGBTQ educator, wine judge, ambassador, front-line service worker (in both on- and off-trade), mentor and more, I yearn to not only lead by example, but to also offer guidance and encouragement in any way I can to anyone I can. To me, the Diversity Scholarship programme would be pivotal and indispensable, and I would make sure to make myself available.