Certifiably Certifiable (Talking Wine Certifications For SevenFifty Daily)

Vinted on October 18, 2017 binned in learning wine, wine appreciation
SevenFifty Daily’s Guide to Wine Education

image: daily.sevenfifty.com

I was recently asked by my friend Lana Bortolot for a quick interview, to help contribute to a piece she was writing about the value (or lack thereof) of certifications in the wine biz. Lana’s work has subsequently been published in a well-researched and well-considered article, SevenFifty Daily’s Guide to Wine Education.

My dime-store-level philosophizing can be found in the article’s section on the Society of Wine Educators (SWE). I was shocked, in a decidedly pleasant way, at how many of the other sources quoted in Lana’s article that I happen to know personally, have worked with, and/or consider to be friends, which I suppose underscores my comments that Lana quoted in the piece.

It’s kind of difficult to imagine, but there was a time a few years ago when certifications were a bit of a fire-starter topic in the wine blogging community; the value propositions of the programs in general were challenged in general. Over the years, I’ve tended to put up camp squarely in the wine-certs-are-a-good-thing territory, though I’ve often cautioned that not all of them are created equally (Lana hits on what I would consider the most important and widely recognized of the bunch in her article). The TLDR version of my past coverage: certifications are a means to differentiation, which is rarely a bad thing; but do your research, have an “end-game” in mind, and choose your certification path wisely to meet it.

If you’re considering getting your feet wet in the wine certification pool, give the SevenFifity Daily overview a read.

Cheers!

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    Comments

  • Bill Harris


    None of the certifications are peer-reviewed against standard academic materials in the relevant sciences. This means that what they say within as testable instruction remains a mystery. To be less charitable, I judging by many of their public comments, would say that holders of said titles do not possess adequate knowledge as to how wine things work.

    • 1WineDude


      Bill, I’m fairly certain that your first sentence isn’t technically true, wrt wset and csw.

      • Bill Harris


        There is nothing ‘technical’ about refusing to turn over the materials to the biology and chemistry departments of an accredited college for scrutiny. We can start, for example, with ‘terroir’ which has been studied for a ten-year period by both the universities of Montpelier and Bordeaux. The results are clearly negative.

        • 1WineDude


          Bill, can we have links/proof/specifics before we try to dive into this, please?

          • Bill Harris


            * All you need to do is to ask the chemistry and/or biology departments at your local college to request the materials for peer-review. Or ask them yourself: “Prior to payment, I need some assurance that your materials meet college-level standards, etc.”..They all will refuse. ** Re terroir: sufficient googleups indicate that the term is nothing but a commercial buzzword. In doing science, moreover, it’s totally incumbent upon the speaker to prove a truth claim–ie a set of finite conditions that might be tested, This has not happened. Therefore, no: those who claim terroir to be true must do the diving. Otherwise, it remains nothing but another null-hypotheses brought to you by the bizness kommunity. You’re just repeating it because you don’t know any better.

            • 1WineDude


              Bill,

              1. You’re effectively making accusations of wine certification bodies, but you’ve provided no direct proof. Maybe you’re right, but without specific examples you have nothing for us to discuss, at least in the sphere within which you want to discuss it.

              2. My previous writings questioning the nature and validity of terroir aren’t bullshit just because you don’t know that they exist.

              • Bill Harris


                I’m not here to prove anything; rather, the lack of peer-review might be of interest to your column. You’re free to investigate this yourself. To this end, I’ve furnished you the tools. Simply write your request and have it denied.

                Ii any case, I do intend in future submissions show that those certified are absolutely clueless as to how wine things work

                Their constant use of ‘terroir’ is an example of their stupidity. So if you agree with me (as you seem to do), then it’s all the more reason for you to want to find out what’s really going on behind their closed curtains.

              • Bill Harris


                As an addendum, i would say that you’ve implicitaly accepted the certifications without questioing them. In so far as they are private organizations using the academic title of ‘master’, the suspicion that something fishy is going on is all too obvious. Yet with your failure to investigate, you’ve taken their story hook-line-and sinker. In other words, you come across as far to cool to care about consumerism. ‘Dude’, indeed.

              • 1WineDude


                I agree that transparency is a good thing in general. But I don’t agree that I somehow blindly feel into line cattle style by studying for and achieving the certifications that I attained.

              • Bill Harris


                How you feel about yourself is one thing; that your ‘certifications’ fail to give you a background in explaining how things work is quite another. You cannot, for example, pass the certifications and deny terroir on the testing. That would mean that you wrote something like, “No, i refuse to name the growths of Bordeaux by rank because the classification of 1855 was bullshit based upon nothing but market reputation”. Or, “Anyone who has actually been to Vouvray knows that the Chenin grown closer to the river tastes differently than that of the hinterland because of simple termerature, etc..” .So which is it? Did you knowingly whore yourself for an intellectually worthless degree or do you seriously belive in its merit? . you might as well be a chiropractor with their own junk science…For sure– the electrochemical transmission in the nerves is ‘like’ water in a hose…

              • 1WineDude


                Bill, you’ve got a lot of logical problems with your “argument.”

                1855 Bordeaux classification was based on price. That’s a matter of historical record. Who’s teaching otherwise? Not wset or swe, that’s for sure.

                Terroir isn’t taught as a scientific concept in these certifications. Since it involves an overly complicated combination of place, weather, farming, and people/techniques, it’s a catch all term for describing the fact that wine does taste different in different places. If one aspect of that is incorrect in one instance, negating all of it doesn’t follow unless you’re “whoring” yourself to logical fallacies.

                Put another way, your arguments are scattershot as currently stated.

              • Bill Harris


                Note my first comment in this thread: wine certifications are not open to peer-review. This means that we don’t know what’s taught, and how. So we don’t know if Wine dude is lying or not regarding the content of his instruction therein.

                For example, is the Bordeaux classification of 1855 memorized (which is how one teaches basic facts) or merely passed over as hypocritical nonsense? Is terror instructed as substantiated by science, or rather as a self-serving belief system with absolutely no factual merit?

                Having both referenced You Tube and talked to these ‘dudes’ in person, it’s rather obvious that Bordeaux classification and terroir are taught as fact. Otherwise, why the endless terroir-drivel and assertions that the testing procedure includes rote memorization of the Bordeaux classification?

                In other words, Dude wants it both ways. We really can’t prove that the teaching material is utter nonsense and junk science because we are not permitted to scrutinize it . Andspite all possible evidence to the contrary –personal encounters and YouTube, etc– we are asked by him to believe his story that terroir and rote memorization of nonsense are not really taken seriously although tested).

                This sort of hypocritical sleaziness gives bullshit a bad name. I invite the reader to go on to You tube and do the reasearch for themselves. Their pretentious stupidity is obvious–dude-ish bathos not withstanding.

              • 1WineDude


                Bill, couldn’t many of your concerns be addressed/confirmed simply by looking at some of the exam sample questions from the certifications in question?

              • Bill Harris


                I have no ‘concern’ that you peeple are promoting commercialized junk science and heresay. Rather, a ‘mission’ to inform the public, wiki-style, of your duplicity and ignorance. For example, here’s one of your typical test questions; so go ahead and answer it in your post back & I’ll send back the ‘offishul’ answer. My bet is that your answer will be as incorrect as that of the testing organization: What is the difference between oxidized and maderized wines?

              • 1WineDude


                Bill, that sounds like horseshit to me. If you were really so self-righteous, you’d simply provide an example, and a corrected alternative. Along the lines of “for example, here’s a public available question/curriculum excerpt/whatever from WSET/CSW/etc. And here is why I believe the answer/text/etc to be incorrect.”

                In fact, if you wanted to expose the types of issues you profess to have, it would potentially be big news in the wine industry. It wouldn’t be the type of thing that you’d rail about in the comments section of a wine blog; it’d be something to convince writers in both online and print to investigate, with a case made on facts. I strongly suspect that you don’t have any such facts, and you’re trolling for… well, whatever it is that people troll for I guess.

              • Bill Harris


                What’s horseshit is that you’re refusing to answer a simple question that I pulled from the sample that your organization made public: What is the difference between oxidized and maderized wines?

                This is because you know that you can’t, and that you’ll be humiliated in public when I explain the right answer. So will your organization because the best you can possibly do is to regurgitate the answer that they demanded in order for you to pass.

                So indeed, by middelamerikan standardz yes, I’m a troll. That means that intentionally go onto sites to expose pretense and stupidity such as yours and your group. Again, the public needs to know what genre of ignoramuses call themselves ‘master’ of wine/sommelier.’

                So if you don’t answer the question that I posed, be assured that I’ll be re-posting it in my response to your next whiny & evasive missive.

              • 1WineDude


                Dude, they’re not “my” organizations. I don’t now and never have worked for them. I don’t hold the titles of Master of Wine or Master Sommelier.

                Are you aware of the irony of you labeling me as having pretense and stupidity when you are a) being pretentious, and b) committing a shit-ton of spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors? And I’m reasonably certain that you are running just as much risk at being humiliated in public as I am by continuing to post your poorly-framed arguments here.

                To answer your question: Oxidation is a chemical reaction, wherein a compound loses electrons. In the wine biz, it’s shorthand to refer to a wine displaying adverse (faulty) characteristics from excessive oxygen exposure. Maderization refers to the process of making a wine taste and smell like Madeira; almost always involving deliberate oxygen and heat exposure. In the wine biz, the term is often treated as synonymous with oxidized wine, but my understanding is that this isn’t correct usage; that’s because maderized wines technically should be fortified (i.e., they have a high enough ABV to render acetobacter all but inactive). Now, I’ve no idea if that is the answer you’re looking for, but if you have a different one then you better post it with examples and references/links to make your point. If you don’t, then I will assume that you don’t have a point, and I’ll be blocking your IP address. So if you have anything else to add, you’d better make it count and raise your level of discourse several notches above the “troll” setting.

  • Bill Harris


    The title of your thread is “Certifications”, to which I responded, “All are non-peer-reviewed, therefore, all junk”.

    You seem to have taken some exception to this, suggesting moreover that I look into published materials rather than insisting upon what’s intentionally hidden from scrutiny.

    This I did, fishing out a typical test question whose answer as given is idiotically wrong: “Both turn the wines brown, but oxidization is caused by air contact and maderization is caused by heat contact. Both turn a white wine brown and cause nutty aromas, but it is caused in a different way,

    Now, after a second prodding and challenge, you’ve wiki’ed up the correct answer. Congrats.

    this, however, leaves you in a sticky mess: either you agree with me that the certifiers who produce such wrong answers are idiots, or you stick to your topic as to the relatively interesting facets of the various certification organizations.

    in other words, although you claim not to be a member, your text clearly betrays you as a supporter. It’s like saying, “I think chiropractics has much to offer”. Then, when challenged with the facts of chiropractic nonsense, you back off and say, “Well, i’m not a chiropractor”.

    By any estimation, this is sleazy. The irony is therefore all yours.

    • Bill Harris


      As an addendum, I’m going to elaborate on your explanation of maderization, which really isn’t right:

      First and most basically, wine does not ‘oxidize’. Rather, it re-doxes because the electron exchange is internal between substances.

      In this particular, ‘all madarization means is that the electron exchange produced favorable results. Winespeak’s terminology is jibberish that confuses the customer. Again: ‘madarization” is a redox that doesn’t effect the alcohol.

      Heating the estuva will simply make the reaction occur faster because heat (radiation) increases the activity (energy level) of the electrons. but then again, heat will increase the rate of any re-dox.

      In other words, there is no physical-chemical difference between ‘exposing’ the wine to oxygen (whatever that means) and the commensurate increase in heat,

      Lastly, in certain white wines the enzyme called ‘tyrosene’ prevents the redx of ethyl to ethal, thereby spoilage. In these cases, the oxygen is free, giving a nutty taste, Obviously the four grapes used in madeira have this internal amiono acid quality.

      Red wine pigment, being polyphenols, do what polys do: they stop or slow down the redox rea

      • 1WineDude


        Uhm… No.

        You’re completely ignoring evaporation, which is absolutely impacted by both oxygen exposure and heat. We literally have the entire history of wine aging in semi porous containers as evidence of this.

        As far as I’m aware, neither the SWE or WSET claim that maderization is anything more than a controlled process of heat and oxygen exposure.

    • 1WineDude


      Bill, I feel as though I’m playing with my food here.

      “The title of your thread is “Certifications”, to which I responded, “All are non-peer-reviewed, therefore, all junk”. You seem to have taken some exception to this, suggesting moreover that I look into published materials rather than insisting upon what’s intentionally hidden from scrutiny.”

      Your first logical fallacy is assuming that, because I have certs from the SWE and WSET, that I somehow represent anything other than having passed those exams. Your second is assuming that the exams aren’t peer reviewed. Do you have any direct evidence of the latter? Nope. Now, you might be right, but you’ve not provided even the basic starting point for exploring your claim.

      “This I did, fishing out a typical test question whose answer as given is idiotically wrong: “Both turn the wines brown, but oxidization is caused by air contact and maderization is caused by heat contact. Both turn a white wine brown and cause nutty aromas, but it is caused in a different way”

      Now, after a second prodding and challenge, you’ve wiki’ed up the correct answer. Congrats.”

      Wrong again, bro. You picked one question without any source citation (which is why you’re now getting blocked from commenting, as I warned you above), and so your next logical fallacy is that cherry picking an (unreferenced) example invalidates certification programs as a whole. My answer to your (uncited) question comes from the latest edition of the Oxford Companion to wine, which both the SWE and WSET list as part of their syllabus for their highest level exams. Incidentally, its entries on oxidation and maderization go into some detail on the technical aspects of your later comment, which you can check by examining the book at your nearest library or bookstore.

      “this, however, leaves you in a sticky mess: either you agree with me that the certifiers who produce such wrong answers are idiots, or you stick to your topic as to the relatively interesting facets of the various certification organizations. in other words, although you claim not to be a member, your text clearly betrays you as a supporter. It’s like saying, “I think chiropractics has much to offer”. Then, when challenged with the facts of chiropractic nonsense, you back off and say, “Well, i’m not a chiropractor”.”

      There are almost too many logical fallacies in your last paragraph to go into here. I’m **literally** not a member of either organization from which I received the certifications about which I was interviewed in the linked article about which I wrote. You’re asking me to agree to an illogical conclusion you drew from an uncited example. I can’t do that, because I’m not an idiot.

      “By any estimation, this is sleazy. The irony is therefore all yours.”

      Only if I reduced my level of intellectual discourse several notches, bro.

      • Marta Sommer


        Really a great points you have placed here

        • 1WineDude


          Grazie

  • ruthieloveswine


    Omg – the guy that thinks wine certifications are not peer-reviewed has obviously never visited any and every wine discussion board in the world, where each and every (however tiny) factoid from every wine certification on earth is endlessly challenged, debated, and proven…only to have the facts changed by some wine-producing country’s government, which only begins the process again….

    • 1WineDude


      I blocked him, after a warning, of course, because he was acting like a jerk, and not supplying examples/proof for any of his claims.

  • Bob Henry


    Wow — I take a multi-week break from Dude’s blog, and a food fight breaks out!

    [Would someone like to give me a backgrounder on who Bill (“Bluto”) Harris is?]

    Bibliography:

    From UC Davis
    (November 25, 2013):

    “Sequencing Study Lifts Veil on Wine’s Microbial Terroir”

    Link: http://news.ucdavis.edu/search/printable_news.lasso?id=10762&table=news

    — and —

    From New York Times
    (November 25, 2013):

    “Microbes May Add Special Something to Wines”

    Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/26/science/microbes-may-explain-some-of-the-mysteries-of-terroir-and-wine.html?_r=0&pagewanted=print

    By Nicholas Wade

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