1WineDude TV Episode 8: Masters of the Wine Universe

Vinted on August 13, 2009 binned in 1WineDude TV, interviews

Joe talks to Wine Educator and WSET insider Jason Whiteside, who tells us about the most valuable tracks of wine education for the budding wine geek and the wine professional – such as the CSW, the WSET/Masters of Wine, the Court of Master Sommeliers, and the Masters of… the Universe!

By the Power of Grayskull!!!

Cheers!

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    Comments

  • Dale Cruse


    Just to play the devil's advocate, doesn't becoming part of the wine discourse serve to further separate people who are really into wine from the general public who just enjoys drinking it?

    And isn't the end result of that being wine writers who end up writing with other wine writers in mind rather than the general public? And isn't that why wine blogs as a genre are vastly under read?

    Are we simply fostering an already broken system?

    • Phil


      I think a lot depends on the audience of the school. If the school is intended for wine professionals, that it really isn't going to be very helpful to treat them like the general public. If it's intended for the general public, then it really isn't going to be helpful to treat them like wine professionals.

      Communications is a different animal, some people just aren't good at it, thus you get esoteric descriptors or windy and wordy tableside discourses.

      On bloggers, my view is that there is too much navel gazing going on (so we agree), but I don't think it's because bloggers are too obsessed with the snotty side of wine, I just think it's a young industry trying to find its way in a difficult field to break into.

  • @suburbanwino


    Good point, Dale. I think the truly great wine writers/bloggers/educators would be the ones who can take that "discourse", digest it, and relate it to both the seasoned nerd and the casual wino. Sometimes, I do feel like organizations like the Court of Master Sommeliers are trying to protect wine so they can profit off an exclusivity of knowledge.

    Could it help me professionally that I know the allowed grapes, Grand Cru, and winemaking practices of the Cotes de Nuits? Sure. But I'd argue it help me a lot more to explain that "this is basically great Pinot Noir, and here's what it might smell/taste like"…an educated consumer will probably buy more than an intimidated one, and not everyone wants the level of education many of us nerds have…they just don't want to look stupid in front of their girlfriends/business prospects.

    • 1WineDude


      "trying to protect wine so they can profit off an exclusivity of knowledge"

      That is so very, very true. In fact, rallying against that is more-or-less why I started this blog in the first place!

      • @suburbanwino


        I guarantee this is why guys like Parker are lashing out at bloggers. It's clearly a desperate swing at everyone, because they realized that the general public found their buried treasure.

        Listen: I have tremendous respect for Robert Parker and what he can tell you about a bottle of wine 30 years before it's ready to drink. He should be embracing all this interest that he helped create! That's why your post you did a month or so ago about these curmudgeons slamming bloggers is so shocking!

        I could have a 10 hour discussion about this…great post!

  • Dale Cruse


    Good discussion here, which is exactly what I was hoping for.

    I find that when helping others learn about wine, I often start from a deficit. There are still LOTS of people who choose wine simply because it has a pretty label. So I have to explain to them that if you don't judge a book by its cover, why would you do so with a wine?

    It's gotten so bad that in October I'm going to teach a class called "Wine Mythbusters" where I explain to people that for example, not all Riesling is sweet, not all Chianti is crap, and Dom Perignon didn't invent Champagne.

    So rather than trying to confuse the language of wine, I'm trying to make it more accessible, no matter your age, color or gender. And that's something both He-Man and Skeletor can agree on.

  • Decaturwinedude


    Nice concise piece about wine education. While I new much of what was discussed, it was a nice summary.
    Dale brings up an interesting point, but I think this discourse is important. While it is somewhat insulated, it does improve the overall understanding for all. Including the general public.

  • 1WineDude


    Great points, and I think the danger of the issue that Dale brings up is real.

    What we need to make sure of, I guess, is that the discourse doesn't have strict rules of engagement or vocabulary, so that it's accessible to all, but is grounded well enough in shared knowledge. I think Jason's view is a bit different from mine, but I do appreciate that we can't say that an old Pinot reminds us of the smell of our first family dog after he got caught in the rain, because that's not useful to others in describing a wine, for example.

  • Dale Cruse


    Joe, I think the smell of wet dog is more common than descriptors like "hints of cedar and Chinese five spice."

    I also think there's a reason why a certain other guy who does wine video podcasts is so popular. Not only does he pump out tons of content, but he uses descriptors like "this smells like a Strawberry Shortcake scratch n sniff sticker from the 1980s" to describe wine. And THAT appeals to the masses who don't speak the same language as the WSET or CSW or MW or whatever.

    • 1WineDude


      Totally agree – oddly enough, I was thinking about Gary V's descriptors just this morning, and I realized that I tend to describe wines more like he does than they way that I would have learned in WSET, for example.

      But, having the WSET background means I can walk both sides of that street, which I think is a valuable skill to have even if it doesn't have mass appeal, since it helps me to possibly bridge the two together.

  • dannysuede


    Would it lighten the mood too much to mention the overt homosexual endeavor of becoming a master of the universe? If not then I would back up my claim by warning you all to watch out for beast-man and fisto.

    • 1WineDude


      True… if Masters of the Universe taught us anything, it was a) Mattel will do anything to sell products & b) it's OK to be gay.

  • @suburbanwino


    In the end, wine is what the consumer wants it to be; whether that's a lifelong object of study, and means of sensual pleasure, a collectors' item, a harbinger of conviviality, a source of lively discussion, or a facilitator of getting some action. Depending on your perspective, no answer- really- is wrong.

    • 1WineDude


      True. I guess the question we should be asking is, what's best for the future of wine in general and how can we contribute to it?

      • @suburbanwino


        Change in perception. I'd say the general public sees a stuffy suit sniffing and sniffing and sniffing, throwing out, as Dale says, "hints of cedar and Chinese Five Spice"…it's like this time I went to Cakebread Cellars, and the host, as we drank our Chardonnay, kept saying, "oooh, you can really smell the fuji apples in there, can't you?" At the time, I didn't know what a fuji apple tasted like, and it made me feel dumb. And I didn't DARE ask what it's supposed to smell like.

        • @suburbanwino


          part 2:

          I think that Jets fan guy really paved the way: football fan, the Thundercats dolls, the descriptors, the Jersey accent. A regular guy liking fine wine. However, I man does not a revolution make. You and others have brought humor into the fold; once mutually-exclusive of wine appreciation (doesn't drinking lead to good humor???!). I try to show people that you can eat bbq, play horseshoes, enjoy beer, be a (pardon the expression) "regular Joe" and still drink great wine. Trust me: I ain't no prize, but I'm gonna drink the hell out of some trockbeerenauslese, cause it's great!

          • Dale Cruse


            One thing we shouldn't lose sight of regarding GV is that the guy knows what he's talking about. If he used silly descriptors but was just shucking and jiving, he would have zero credibility. But when he can hang with Jancis Robinson, well, that says a lot to me.

            Wine is like jazz music in that if you don't know what you're doing, you're going to be exposed real quick!

            • 1winedude5036


              LOVE the jazz comparison – it's *perfect*. If you don't have the chops, you can't really fool the Internet generation, or those who think like the Internet generation. Our B.S. detector is on a hair trigger!

            • @suburbanwino


              Right on, Dale. Goes back to having all the knowledge while being able to translate into what resonates to the general public. There's a reason why the guy's so successful.

          • 1winedude5036


            Amen to that! If my blog doesn't convince people that ANYBODY can learn to enjoy fine wine, then I'm not sure what would… I mean, the goal of most of my videos is to make me look like a complete fool within the first 30 seconds :-).

          • @suburbanwino


            "one man does not a revolution make" not "I man does not a revolution make"

            what a dope…

        • 1winedude5036


          Good one… not sure I'd recognize a fuji apple aroma either!

        • Dale Cruse


          That's what I love about the upcoming Generation Y. They feel no sense of embarrassment by raising their hands and asking what the fuck a fuji apple tastes and smells like!

          • @suburbanwino


            Indeed. I prefer wet dog. It's a common smell. I've had some people taken aback because I described a wine as smelling like "freshly killed deer".

            [insert "make fun of the guy from Georgia" joke here]

  • 1WineDude


    YOU HAVE THE POWER!!!

    Hey – would you be willing to share any slide decks you use for the Mythbusters class? Would LOVE to see that.

    • Dale Cruse


      Slides?! Who uses slides?! That's old school! In class, we're going to talk about wine, sing songs about it, write haikus about it, and perform interpretive dances about it! Then we're all going out for tattoos!

      Maybe I can get someone to shoot a video of the class. This ain't yer momma's lecture.

      • 1winedude5036


        Cool – well, would love to see the vid, minus the interpretive dancing…

        • @suburbanwino


          I don't know. I think "wine education through interpretive dance" could be the new angle were all seeking!

          • 1WineDude


            God help us!

  • 1WineDude


    YOU HAVE THE POWER!!!

    Hey – would you be willing to share any slide decks you use for the Mythbusters class? Would LOVE to see that.

  • 1winedude5036


    Thanks! It's strange for me that none of these guys seem to "get" blogging (or at least very few of them seem to get it). Why they don't feel any urge to become leaders in that space is beyond me…

  • tom merle


    There is far too much emphasis on trying to describe a wine, using characteristics from other taste sensations. So what, the consumer asks. We don't do this with other sensuous experiences like listeing to a Bach Sonata or taking in a Rothko painting. We can add to wine drinking appreciation by discussing the context of the wine–its heritage, vintage characteristics, how the winemaker got into the business–adding the human element.

    • 1WineDude


      Similar to going behind scores & ratings, I suppose, and allowing readers to connect in some way with the wine…

  • Phil


    I think it's important to not give too much emphasis to the influence of a various "school", ultimately what you get out of any class is up to you–yes I think wine needs to be made as accessible as possible to everyone, but I don't agree that this means education is bad (and tasting is just one component of what you learn). The best take their deep reservoir of knowledge and make it accessible to those who don't know much. But I think it's pretty hard to make something accessible if you don't have that deep reservoir for something like wine. There's too much of it and it's too complicated a subject. These schools, like any, aren't about walking out with a shinny degree. They're about bettering yourself and getting exposed to some people with some serious wine knowledge. For those that don't like the way some tasting notes are written, let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    • Dale Cruse


      I reject the idea that wine is "too complicated a subject." It's no more complicated than anything else. Put it in your mouth. Does it taste good? Yes/No? Do you want another sip? Yes/No? Can you afford to purchase it? Yes/No? Everything else is just trivia.

      We must stop reinforcing the idea that wine is too complicated a subject if we ever hope to convince the general public.

      • Phil


        No more complicated than vodka or beer? For the end user, maybe, maybe not (as you point out, if you like it, you like it)–the trivia part of it is what helps consumers (and for our discussion, professionals) navigate a world of hundreds of thousands of bottles spread over hundreds of varietals. Why are people overwhelmed by wine? A big part of it is that there is so much of it and so much of it is different and comes from places with different laws about things as simple as what gets put on the label. Did you like that Alsatian Riesling you just had? Great! Now how are you supposed to transfer that knowledge (I like this) into your next purchase of wine, a not inexpensive product? The job of a professional is to know all of this information so he/she can help the consumer.

        If I'm going to take the recommendation of someone on a wine, I want to know that they know their stuff beyond whether or not they like the wine, how else are they going be able to guide me to things I like? If you're a professional in the wine world, it's your job to know the trivia, however you come by that knowledge. It's your job to be able to communicate effectively with consumers, which means not throwing trivia or esoteric information at them but also means knowing enough about what you're talking about.

        As a consumer, I don't care to know the ins and outs of air conditioning, I just want mine to work. But I certainly expect someone who is in the air conditioning business to, I would expect them to know plenty of things that would be a terribly boring and confusing to me. Any subject that you want to be a professional in is too complicated to approach like a consumer. And the classes that were discussed in the original posting of this blog are geared at professionals.

    • 1WineDude


      Thanks, Phil.

      Not sure I'd say wine is too complicated. I would say though that it's damn confusing for the average consumer!

  • Alleigh


    Dale has a good point about the possibility of the discourse taking wine away from the general public, particularly in the case of blogging. However, maybe it's because Jason was my Advanced WSET instructor, but I actually think that he is an example of how wine education can further the discourse in a general-public friendly way. Having the background knowledge from taking wine courses is interesting, helpful, and, honestly, encouraged me to enter the conversation because that is why I started my blog to begin with. Ultimately, it’s the role of the people who really enjoy wine to keep the discourse moving forward while ensuring that the general public isn’t left behind or turned off to wine in the process. The problem is not the result of wine educated wine writers, but of wine writers (educated or not) who lose sight of how to keep the general public involved in the conversation.

    • 1WineDude


      Jason was your instructor? I'm really sorry to hear that… :-)

  • Eagles Nest Winery


    Believe there's a place for all of this. The real trick it to be legitimately knowledgeable about wine but to also write and share that knowledge with both "the masses" and focused wine lovers. Still think WSET or CSW or MW have value.

    • 1WineDude


      I'm *sure* that those education tracks add value, for man of the reasons that others have stated here. I'm not sure they add value to the average wine-buyer, but certainly WSET Beginner or Intermediate classes could be taken by someone who's really wine-geeky. The rest are geared towards wine industry folk, but I think they do provide cred. for the industry and provide some expertise for helping others.

      Not sure what I just meant by all of that, but it felt good to write it after drinking 2 glasses of wine! Cheers!

  • Dylan


    The question of how we move past the tasting statement "Yes, this tastes like grapes with a hint of alcohol," is answered by removing stigma of being wrong. It's okay to have an accepted vocabulary exist, but that doesn't mean people should fear their own understanding of the wine. People should feel encourage to make there description personal as much as it is translatable. Could you imagine if there were a list of words that you were forced to use when describing the sensation of river kayaking or hiking a tall mountain to the top? In the end it's your experience.

    • 1WineDude


      Good point – I think the fear factor of being somehow "incorrect" is really off-putting for a lot of people.

  • Wine of Month Club


    So much of the wine community gets a bad rap as elitist etc. I think all wineries and bloggers can help to bring more people into the industry by offering suggestions and more information and conversation instead of telling people what to do and not do.

    You guys are comfortable on camera which is a huge plus!

    • 1winedude5036


      Now, if I could only add good looks, charm and talent to being comfortable in front of the camera, I'd be set!

  • 1WineDude


    I'm surprised that no one mentioned how much bigger than me Jason looks in this video!

    • Dale Cruse


      EVERYBODY is bigger than you, Joe.

  • 1WineDude


    My man! I knew you wouldn't let me down! :)

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