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 Dún 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.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Let’s all bitch about wine, or is that whine about bitch?

This meme appeared on my Facebook newsfeed some time ago – If you’ve never had a Supreme Court case decide if you have the same rights as others, you have privilege. This is so true, and a very simple explanation of what privilege is. Recently, I saw a post on Tim Atkin’s site in relation to wine bitch, something of which I had never heard. This led to two other articles, by Vinka Danitza, (who I don’t know and have never met. Finally, I was sent the four so-called wine bitch articles and the whole thing is quite depressing. 

I live a life of privilege – white, male and also a Master of Wine (MW). MWs see a very different world to many others – we are treated well on trips and get (often though not always) to see things and taste wines that most people in the trade can only dream about. At our excellent dinner in Banqueting House in 2013 to mark the 60th anniversary of the first MW exam, Sarah Morphew-Stephen spoke about the difficulties she faced being a woman in the wine trade, and seeking to become a Master of Wine (which she did in 1970, the first woman to do so).

The Institute of Masters of Wine seems, to me at least, a fairly gender-neutral organisation – almost exactly one third of our members are women (a better statistic than something like 75% of parliaments across the globe), with numerous female Chairmen, Executive Directors and so forth. In seven separate years since 1986 more women passed than men, and in most years it’s fairly close – 2020 saw 13 men and 10 women pass.

But of course, we are privileged and the first of Vinka’s articles points to the ridiculously male culture that still exists in many parts of world (and, more than likely, far closer to home than we’d like to think). As someone whose first hero in wine was Jancis Robinson MW (she was always on the TV in the late 1980s and early 1990s when I started out) I have never thought there was any difference (except perhaps that men in wine can be far more detail-fascinated and, consequently, boring then women) and all of the comments Vinka mentions are utterly appalling.

The second article is about an area where, sadly, many of us have no great possibility of control, and that is the online world. We can, of course, unfriend people, but it is often the case that if you try to take someone on you just end up with a torrent of faulty logic, deflection and, eventually, abuse. I am not sure if it really was Bill Murray who said this: "It’s hard to win an argument with a smart person, but it’s damn near impossible to win an argument with a stupid person" but it’s true – Mark Twain put it differently: “Never argue with stupid people. They will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.”

As for wine bitch – four articles sent through a private WhatsApp group with little to distinguish them in literary or critical values. They read like a spoiled schoolboy ranting about all the people who he dislikes, for whatever trivial reason. I found them depressing but was quite amused that when the alleged author was unmasked (apparently Joe Fattorini, whoever he is) he sent cease and desist letters to those who named him – it’s all right for me to anonymously trash you but not for you to truthfully identify me (and now I’m going to laugh at my own joke by inserting…)!

Sadly, identifying wine bitch and trying to figure out the dim references contained in his vitriol (I have no idea who most of the people he derides are) is likely to take centre-stage when, really, Vinka’s articles require more study and action. If any of us is witness to the sort of events she describes, do we do enough? Do we stand up and call out the perpetrators? Obviously, not often enough and certainly not with sufficient force. It really is no longer enough to simply say I support #metoo or #blacklivesmatter – action is required and we should bear in mind the words of one of my far more illustrious countrymen , Edmund Burke: "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing".

1 comment:

Jo Ahearne MW said...

Spot on. We often ‘laugh it off’ not wanting to be ‘that woman’ who ‘can’t take a joke’ or who ‘spoils the atmosphere’. It’s time to stop sexist/racist/homophobic attitudes and that time will come a lot quicker if we all call out those who make the comments.