About Me

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Dublin, Ireland
Hi, I'm Dermot Nolan, and I became a Master of Wine (MW) in 1997, and resigned from the Institute of Masters of Wine in 2023 after being an MW for exactly 26 years. I opened a wine shop in DĂșn Laoghaire, Ireland, called The Wine Library, which closed in 2018, and this is my personal wine blog. I will do my utmost to be fair and responsible in my posts – please read my Who Pays article in re the ethics of wine trips and writing. I have worked in wine education, retail, and consultancy since 1990. I was a Director of the Institute of Masters of Wine (IMW) from 2008 to 2014 and was also a member of the Events Committee, founder of the Trips Committee, and member of the Governance Committee. Having had problems with potentially libellous comments from unidentifiable posters, I now require that if you post a comment, you must identify yourself properly or it won't be published. Please note that I do not review products or services on request so kindly don't ask. I value my independence and I believe my readers (few that they may be) do so also.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Do "experts" matter?

Many years ago, I submitted a bottle of wine to Chelsea FC as I thought it might be a good wine for them to serve. It was Blue White, the groundbreaking South African chenin blanc made by my very dear friends at Old Vines Wine Cellars in Stellenbosch. The wine was in a blue bottle which I thought would be a good fit for the club. Ken Bates wrote back, telling me the wine was too acid (!?) and that he wasn't interested. A short while later, I saw an interview with him where he stated that he didn't believe wine experts knew anything. I often wondered if he felt the same about the doctors who treated him, or the people who made the car he drove! In this day and age of blogs and the like, so many people wonder if wine experts are in any way valid so it's nice to come across a piece explaining why we are!
This article is really interesting for a few good reasons. A number of UK bloggers have posted articles questioning taste and tasting ability over the last year but now we know that experts exist and for a good reason: they can discern different flavours in wine.
But the best thing about this article (especially for someone who has spent nearly 20 years teaching wine) is that all of this expertise is learned - there are no innate tasters, we all have to practise and work at beaing able to name the flavours we find.
Students often tell me that "It's easy for you" when what they actually mean is "I'm not going to put in the same effort"! I can recall moments when suddenly, something became clear - an epiphany, if you will. Someone else mentions a flavour and you suddenly realise that's the flavour you've been searching for - lime sherbet for Australian riesling was one: Michael Palij (now MW) mentioned this in an MW course day there and then I got Australian riesling.
We learn to taste by trying, by listening to others, by practising and you can get to any standard you want, if you want to. If you want to be a casual taster, then that's as far as you go; do much more work and you can get WSET Diploma!

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