She knows just how to enjoy the finer things in life; Master of Wine, Lisa Perrotti-Brown, shares with us her experiences and her love for her one true passion – wine. I understand that your first encounter with wine actually sparked your interest in the subject, which enticed you to further your wine studies. Could you tell me more about what this first encounter was like? What made it so significant?
Well, it wasn’t actually my first encounter with wine that sparked my interest. Like most young adults, I started experimenting with wine when I was in college. At that time it was just another alcoholic beverage – no more special or exciting than beer or cocktails. After I graduated from college (with a degree in English literature), I moved to Londonwith my heart set on becoming a playwright. After having a couple of plays produced on the London “fringe”, I still wasn’t making ends meet so I got a job at a wine bar. There I started learning about wine from my manager and other members of staff. After a few weeks of working with wine, a customer came into the bar and ordered a magnum of Chateau Palmer 1983. He offered me a taste and that was it – I was completely in awe of how complex wine could be. The depth and layers of beguiling aromas and flavours in this epiphany-moment-taste had me hooked for life!What was ‘Wine School’ like? What would one do on a day-to-day basis? How about examinations and ‘palate work-outs’ – could you tell me how they work?
While I was working at that wine bar in London, I started attending wine classes part-time at the Wine and Spirit Education Trust. The classes were a lot of fun, particularly the tasting sessions. As in most wine schools, after the introduction to tasting technique is out of the way, we learned about wines in the context of grape varieties like Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon and regions such as Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Barossa Valley or Central Otago. I eventually did all the wine courses the WSET had to offer at that time – up through ‘Diploma’ level – and then applied to go onto to the Master of Wine student programme. What’s the biggest challenge to you as a Master of Wine?
Passing the exam….it’s as simple as that. There’s no grey area, no partial credit. You either pass all three blind tasting papers and four theory papers and become a Master of Wine or you don’t.Share with us some of your ‘wine travel’ stories. Which countries have you visited? Are there any dream destinations?
I’ve been to nearly every major wine-producing region of the world. Classic regions such as Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne I’ve visited many times. When I achieved my Master of Wine qualification in 2008, I was awarded the Tim Derouet prize for the best overall results achieved in the exam that year. It included a bursary that I was to spend on visiting a wine region that I had never been to before. Thinking of a new region to visit was a bit of a challenge, since I’d travelled extensively around the world. Finally I’d settled on India
since I’d tasted Indian wines before, and thought they were very good and was fascinated by Indian culture. I then spent 3 weeks travelling around the wine regions of India and, I have to say, it was one of my most rewarding wine trips.Do you have a favourite wine?
Chateau Palmer is still an old favourite. But generally speaking I’m constantly changing my preferences for grapes, regions and styles. I’m really excited by a lot of the new Chardonnays coming out of Australia
at the moment. Australia has some superb terroirs for this grape and the new focus on quality plus the less-is-more approach when it comes to winemaking is yielding some truly world-class stunners.What does it take to become a Master of Wine?
I mentor students now, coaching them to become Masters of Wine. My first word of advice to them is, “If you aren’t prepared to put everything you’ve got – mentally, physically, emotionally - into getting this qualification, you may as well save yourself a lot of time and money and just quit now. This is like the wine Olympics. It’s all or nothing.”Any words of wisdom for budding Masters of Wine out there?
To achieve the Master of Wine, it’s not enough to know wine. You have to live it. You have to unconditionally love it.Photo courtesy of Hermitage Wine
---Lisa will be hosting Bordeaux Starlets, the premier wine event featuring 16 Bordeaux chateaus and two wine tasting Master Classes. Be at the Equarius Hotel at Resorts World Sentosa on 16 April 2012 to meet the Master of Wine in the flesh!
For more details, visit the official website of Hermitage Wine.
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