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Congratulations to the 6 new Master Sommeliers recognized just this morning!
(here 5 of them – photo courtesy of the Court of Master Sommeliers)

Once more Elaine brings us bang up to date on a scandal to have hit the American Master Sommelier organisation. 

6 December 2018 The Court of Master Sommeliers has welcomed six new Master Sommeliers to their ranks today. The tasting portion of the rigorous three-part exam took place yesterday, 5 December, in St Louis, Missouri, and the results were announced this morning. In total, 30 sat this round of the blind tasting exam. The six who passed – Andrey Ivanov, Douglas Kim, Mia Van de Water, Maximilian Kast, Steven McDonald (pictured below), plus Dana Gaiser – had previously passed in what turned out to be September’s breached exam. Yesterday’s blind tasting was the first of three possible special tasting exams offered by the Court following September’s breach. The second special tasting will occur in the new year, and the third alongside the regularly scheduled Master Sommelier exams already planned for next year. Each of these additional exam opportunities is proctored in the same manner as any other Master Sommelier exam. However, the Court’s board has also made clear they have increased their already strict security protocols around the blind tasting preparation procedures following September’s incident.

The press releases sent in October from the Court’s board regarding September’s security breach (see below) state that it was an exam proctor that violated the integrity of the exam, rather than any particular candidate who cheated. It does not state that any particular candidate sought to gain such …

To continue reading, head on over to JancisRobinson.com where the article appears free-for-all to read. Here’s the direct link: https://www.jancisrobinson.com/articles/us-master-sommeliers-shrink-and-compensate

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Hawk Wakawaka Wine Reviews by Hawk Wakawaka - 3w ago

Peking Duck being prepared for table side service at DaDong, Shanghai

Last week 30 media from 16 countries around the world traveled to Shanghai to attend a day-long media summit followed by ProWine China. Arriving a day early, we were able to spend a day touring wine bars, retail shops, importers and distributors in various neighborhoods of the city as well. I stayed on another two days in order to speak at ProWine and then take a private tour of the city. Though I’d traveled through the Shanghai airport, this my first trip into the city itself. It was fascinating and I learned an enormous amount about the local history and culture, doing wine business in China, how wine growing is progressing in China, and local cuisine. So much local cuisine. I honestly spent most of my spare time eating. It was wonderful. I’ll be writing more about aspects of the trip for various venues. In the meantime, following are insights shared along the way via Instagram while I was there in Shanghai.

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Singles Day, November 11 – 11,11: It turns out today is one of the most important cultural days, and biggest shopping days of the year in China. The commerce house, Alibaba, started Singles Day in 2009 as a sales, social, and cultural activity and it quickly spread to shops and businesses throughout the country. Alibaba actually piggybacked the shopping concept on the back of a cultural celebration by young people of being single that started in the country’s universities in the 1980s. It eventually also became the most popular day for getting married. On the sales side, shops begin long in advance promoting not only discounts but also special items that are only available this time of the year and sometimes for as little as only one-hour of the day. On both sides, then, for the shops and the shoppers Singles Day is quite competitive. It is a unique cultural event though as well in that the older generations still alive today literally did not grow up shopping. The very notion of going to shops for casual shopping as we take for granted in not only the United States but in many other countries of the world as well simply did not exist in China until recently. However in recent decades, wealth in China has grown so rapidly and new tools for buying and selling have appeared simultaneously as well. The movement of goods and money, then, occurs here in ways little understood in other parts of the world. Singles Day originated as part of this cultural evolution and though it sounds like merely a shopping and marketing event perhaps similar to Black Friday In the United States, it is at the same time a sort of social communication and cultural celebration as well. Things like people dressing up for photo shoots, for example, increase as well, as well as new goods and never before seen cultural trends are also introduced. #shanghai

A post shared by Elaine Chukan Brown (@hawk_wakawaka) on Nov 10, 2018 at 5:41pm PST

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The local government office for the Txiantandi area of Shanghai, which is overseen by the Communist party, and represents much of the economic and cultural functionality of the region. Government is regulated locally and certain government businesses (including at least most if not all wine business) is owned locally while interwoven with the oversight of the Communist party. Local governments and the Communist party are technically separate but profoundly interconnected. As one person explained it to me, it functions much like what we call the Old Boys network in the United States, with the networking power and deep historical, multigenerational connections and favors that implies, except here in China that power is publicly legitimated and used via the government itself. #shanghai

A post shared by Elaine Chukan Brown (@hawk_wakawaka) on Nov 10, 2018 at 6:24pm PST

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Dragon fruit and durian in the public market, Shanghai #shanghai

A post shared by Elaine Chukan Brown (@hawk_wakawaka) on Nov 10, 2018 at 6:43pm PST

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Merely twenty years ago visitors to China had to bring their own supplies from toiletries, including toilet paper, to clothing, to computers, the printer and printing cartridges, and all of the amenities we take for granted in countries like the United States as if they are essential when in reality they are merely cultural norms we have gotten used to. Shopping also essentially did not yet exist as shops themselves did not yet truly exist in the way we think of them outside China. Today, multiple level malls and shops integrated into every aspect of the city are instead standard. (Though in this case the celebration of Singles Day means the mall is quite empty as most are busy shopping online.) In a mere twenty years the economic force and truly global power of the Chinese economy has increased at a speed hard for most outside China to fathom. In those twenty years the marketing acumen of China has shown itself as well, with companies and goods here undergoing three or four waves of development. (1) The arrival of international companies. Haagen-Daaz, for example, moved into China with shops earlier than many other companies. (2 and 2.1) Brands that were clearly developed here in China to fulfill the same role as these sorts of international companies and brands. Today, these sorts have brands have evolved to a point where by appearance and quality it is not obvious if they originate in China or internationally.(3) Internationally, now many brands that are iconic for their country have been purchased by Chinese ownership as a way to move into the international market. Volvo, MG cars, Lenovo computers, are all examples. There are also more modestly sized such companies that have not been advertised as under new Chinese ownership. Numerous modestly sized Chateaus in France are also examples. In each cases, rather than over extend or build distribution the companies chosen are already sustainably established economically and the buyer has already ensured distribution is in place. So far most Chinese brand movement into international markets has occurred through this sort of buy-in rather than from Brands originated in China becoming global. #shanghai

A post shared by Elaine Chukan Brown (@hawk_wakawaka) on Nov 10, 2018 at 7:52pm PST

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Sales transactions in China occur in a sort of circular fashion that means paper cash and traditional banks are almost on the verge of disappearing. For example, the social media app WeChat does not merely operate for text exchanges. Instead it is also a sales mechanism through which food deliveries can be ordered, co-op bicycles can be rented, and goods can be purchased. These transactions are owned and/or run by WeChat and are purchased using what is essentially WeChat’s own internal currency. It is a kind of multi-level ownership of the goods, the distribution, and even the currency itself we do not see in the United States. WeChat is merely one example of a company that operates in this sort of internal circle of exchange. While money must ultimately be exchanged to pay for the transactions, the frequency of interactions with traditional banks is comparatively non existent and only tourists continue to use cash. #shanghai

A post shared by Elaine Chukan Brown (@hawk_wakawaka) on Nov 10, 2018 at 8:11pm PST

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Espresso. Shanghai. Jet lag. #shanghai

A post shared by Elaine Chukan Brown (@hawk_wakawaka) on Nov 10, 2018 at 9:35pm PST

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Learning about the upper end restaurant wine scene in Shanghai from NAPA wine bar & restaurant GM and wine director Edward Lee. The word napa means not afraid. Eleven years ago when the restaurant opened as a small wine bar it was the first dedicated wine bar in Shanghai and immediately became a popular destination in the city. At the time around 60% of the clientele was from expats living in Shanghai with the rest Chinese locals. In 2015, NAPA moves to a larger location and expanded its food selection. It’s success swiftly increased while the clientele proportions shifted over time to around 95% locals. When the restaurant opened consumers were primarily seeking top end Bordeaux. Today, that interest has shifted primarily to Burgundy though also Barolo and some other highly regarded wines of the world. Mostly, the Chinese palate is still not accustomed to high acid wines, though that is changing, while highly tannic wines are an easy segue from tannic tea culture. In Shanghai there are multiple WSET schools throughout the city with numerous students and graduates. The Court of Master Sommeliers has some presence here though it is comparatively smaller. #shanghai

A post shared by Elaine Chukan Brown (@hawk_wakawaka) on Nov 10, 2018 at 10:18pm PST

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Tasting Chinese wine #Shanghai

A post shared by Elaine Chukan Brown (@hawk_wakawaka) on Nov 11, 2018 at 3:16am PST

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Getting ready for Peking Duck – Dadong, Shanghai #shaghaifood #shanghai

A post shared by Elaine Chukan Brown (@hawk_wakawaka) on Nov 11, 2018 at 4:00am PST

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Masters of Wine on the coast of Sonoma

Two weeks ago, Masters of Wine from 16 countries arrived in Santa Barbara to begin a ten-day trip through California wine. The Institute of Masters of Wine and the California Wine Institute worked together to coordinate and plan the trip. All together the group tasted over 600 wines from throughout the state and met over 300 producers. I was invited to attend the trip and so was lucky enough to be part of the entire tour from Santa Barbara County, through the Central Coast, up into the North Coast, and then finally culminating in San Francisco. During the Sonoma portion I also presented a seminar on the history of California wine via the lens of Chardonnay. I’ll be writing up a few portions of the trip but in the meantime here’s a look at some of the trip highlights through what I shared along the way via Instagram.

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Etienne de Montille explains that he now makes wine outside Burgundy in the Sta Rita Hills because the experience “contributes to [the team at] de Montille, to discover new ideas, how we can do better, how to understand better, and how to move forward in wine.” After searching multiple New World regions capable of making Pinot Noir with freshness, concentration, finesse and complexity, he came to believe that the Sta Rita Hills offered “the most potential, not the most established region, but the region with the most potential, for making high quality wine in that style.” #californiawines #mastersofwine #mwtours @domainedelacote @thehiltestate @tylerwinery @sanfordwinery @california.wines @domainedemontille

A post shared by Elaine Chukan Brown (@hawk_wakawaka) on Oct 19, 2018 at 10:31am PDT

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Elaine brings us bang up to date on a scandal to have hit the American Master Sommelier organisation.

The US-based chapter of the Court of Master Sommeliers, the Court of Master Sommeliers Americas (CMSA) delivered shocking news this week, and has since announced a decision that will cost it dear in financial terms. A Master Sommelier proctoring last months’ exams in St Louis, Missouri leaked vital information about the wines presented in the tasting exam. As a result, the entire tasting portion of the 2018 exam was ruled invalid. Additionally, the unnamed individual who leaked the information is not only barred from all future activities of the Court, but the CMSA has also initiated legal proceedings to strip them of their title and membership of the institution. It would seem that for legal reasons the Court will remain unable to name the offending individual until after the proceedings have been completed. But the press releases associated with this major breach of protocol have stated that the CMSA has clear documentation proving the violation.

Chairman of the CMSA board Devon Broglie said in a press release, ‘I can only imagine how hard it hit everyone to learn that something they worked so hard for was tainted by the actions of a single individual.’ There is no mention of any of the candidates being suspect or subject to legal proceedings. The offending exam proctor appears to have acted alone.

The impact of this news is severe. Candidates for the exam are required to pass three sections of the exam within three years. They must first pass the theory portion, before then being allowed to proceed to the blind tasting, and service or practical exams. As long as all three sections are passed within a three-year period, candidates may pass in any combination of all three in one year, one per year, etc. For the 2018 exams, only Morgan Harris had previously passed the tasting portion and so remains unaffected by the change in results.

As I reported last month, a record 24 new MSs were announced in St Louis, but 23 of them – except for Harris who did not participate in the St Louis tasting exam – have had their recent tasting exams nullified. Their newly-minted MS titles are effectively suspended until they […].

To continue reading this article, head on over to JancisRobinson.com where it appears free-for-all to read. Here’s the direct link: https://www.jancisrobinson.com/articles/us-master-sommeliers-shrink-and-compensate

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The night of Oct 8 / Oct 9, 2018

As part of our Throwback Thursday series we are republishing this eye-witness report and highlight the ongoing need to help those whose lives were devastated by the fires a year ago. 

4 October 2018 We are just coming up to the anniversary of the worst fires ever known in Northern California wine country. They have already been followed by several other severe wildfires in the state, some of them in areas where wine is made and/or grown. But in Napa and Sonoma there are still thousands of people without proper homes or jobs as a direct result of the devastation. Elaine points out that the worst-affected were the vineyard worker communities who can be directly helped via Sonoma Grape Growers and the Napa Community Foundation.

[…]

To continue reading this Throwback Thursday article, head over to JancisRobinson.com where it continues Free-for-all to read. The article glimpses at the ongoing coverage about the fires through the website. It also goes all the way back to the first report I filed with Jancis in the early morning hours as the fires started in Napa and Sonoma on the night of October 8 / 9. My daughter and I evacuated only a few hours after I sent Jancis the report. Her website became one of the first in the world to report the fires as a result. Here is the link to the article: https://www.jancisrobinson.com/articles/fires-sweep-through-napa-sonoma-and-beyond

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photo by Lisa Corson

On your next wine-tasting jaunt, get the inside scoop at the bar where the makers hang out

ELAINE CHUKAN BROWN

Here’s one way to explore a wine region: Find the main drag, pull over at whatever shiny tasting room catches your eye, and start swirling and sipping. It’s not the worst strategy—it can actually be a lot of fun—but there’s a more surefire way to sip ahead of the curve: Stop for a beer.

Whether you’re driving the hills of Walla Walla or revisiting Napa Valley, there’s always a spot where the who’s who of vintners and growers imbibe. “Winemakers aren’t going to tasting rooms,” says Chris Hammell, who owns Hammell Wine Alliance and also farms Santa Barbara County’s iconic Bien Nacido Vineyards. Instead, he says, they’re at their local cantina.

“If we have people in town, we take them to Babi’s,” says Hammell. For tired winemakers looking for a break from anything grape-related after a long” ….

To keep reading this article, head on over to Sunset Magazine where it appears free for all to read. Here’s the link: https://www.sunset.com/travel/wine-country/wine-bars

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photo courtesy of the Court of Master Sommeliers

In a new record, the Court of Master Sommeliers in the United States celebrated no fewer than 24 passes of the rigorous Master Sommelier exams on Tuesday this week in St Louis, Missouri where this year’s exams took place.

While the number of individuals to pass this year’s exams is a record, the pass rate remains relatively low. This year saw 141 individuals step forward as candidates for the Court’s highest certification (only slightly fewer than the total number of this year’s Master of Wine candidates around the world). To enter, candidates must first have passed the challenging Advanced Sommelier certification, and then, based on continuing education and mentorship, be invited to sit for the Master exams. Almost incredibly, this year’s 24 successful candidates represent together more than …

To continue reading this article, head on over to JancisRobinson.com where the article appears in full here. The article appears there free for all to read. 

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