One of the requirements for becoming a Master of Wine is an original and rigorous research paper of between 6,000 and 10,000 words. The words must be placed in sentences, or it doesn’t count. There is no similar requirement for becoming a Master Sommelier, though they are asked to write an original limerick — said to be the hardest part of the exam, after the colonoscopy. As far as I know, the great unwashed public isn’t privy to the dissertations produced by MWs. However, as Commander of Wine, I have uncovered several dissertations that didn’t pass muster. As brilliant as some of these papers are, they were not good enough to gain their authors acceptance into fine wine’s version of contestants on “The Bachelorette,” the Institute of Masters of Wine.
The Effect of pH in Wine by Mel O’Lactic
In what can only be described as a burst of creative brilliance and insight, MW candidate O’Lactic points out that the proper pH changes ordinary Ugni Blanc to pHugni Blanc, a much more desirable name. He goes on to mention that his research has shown that, with the proper technique, a winemaker can adjust his mediocre and often flabby California red into a delicious ZinfandelpH. It may even improve the balance of his White ZinfandelpH. There’s also a wonderful case made for pHriesling, or, as it’s known in Austria, anti-pHriesling. O’Lactic presents a compelling case for the proper use of pH in wine, but may have failed to pass the litmus test when he submitted his dissertation written on, well, litmus paper.
Orange Wines — Disaster or Tragedy? by Polly Phenol
Phenol poses the interesting question, “Which is worse, orange wine with food, or ice cream headaches?” Her answer might surprise you. “Neither — Sparkling Shiraz is the worst damned thing on the planet.” Phenol’s is a rather rambling dissertation, ranging from her opinion that orange wines are “the worst sort of prolonged skin contact since cattle branding,” to a long section devoted to premox white Burgundy that concludes with “orange is the new Burg, perfect with lobster — you know, lobster new Burg.” One gets the idea that Ms. Phenol is slightly deranged, and should do well in the wine trade.
How to Sell Syrah by Herman Tage
Syrah sales are slower than Hachette books on Amazon. No one seems to understand why Syrah, one of the noblest of red wines, is the Natalie Wood of grapes — dead in the water. Mr. Tage, in his MW dissertation, makes some thoughtful suggestions on how wineries and merchants might increase sales of this woefully overlooked variety. “Take a page out of the pharmaceutical playbook and rename the variety something catchy, like ‘Viagrall’ or ‘Levitrah.’ Imply that Syrah cures erectile dysfunction. It worked for Prosecco!” Or perhaps, “a more street name would work, something like Shirzizzle.” Among his other sensible suggestions for selling Syrah, “Tell people it’s authentic.” Hard to believe this dissertation failed, especially considering how nicely Tage stayed inside the lines coloring in the illustrations.
Oak? Overused or Unnecessary? by Quercus Bunghole
This guy should be an MW based on his name alone. Bunghole believes that the wine industry is addicted to oak and should begin to investigate the use of other trees for making premium wine, notably evergreens and baobobs. He notes, “Where oak might breathe, evergreens are given to flatulence.” I have no idea what that means. Bunghole also thinks that other vessels for aging wine might improve wine’s quality. “What’s wrong with brass? Hell, we drink Champagne from a flute, what’s the difference?” Apparently, Bunghole’s dissertation was approved, but he failed the blind tasting to become an MW when he identified a Grand Cru Chablis as “flesh-eating bacteria”.
Anosmia Dogs by Fido Baggins
Mr. Baggins has done landmark research into the possibility of using trained dogs to help people suffering from anosmia enjoy wine. “There will come a day,” Baggins writes, “when restaurant clients will be allowed to bring their trained Anosmia Dog into the dining room to check their wine for any defects, and even approve their wine list selection.” So many people are insecure about their wine knowledge, and are intimidated by sommeliers. “Anosmia dogs,” writes Baggins, “reject a poorly made wine by urinating on the sommelier’s leg.” A corked wine solicits a firm bark — some irony there. While the utilization of Anosmia Dogs is still in its early stages — too many canines had trouble distinguishing Bandol from their own butts — Baggins is convinced their use is right around the corner. And, like his four-legged friends, he has a leg up.
Are Fake Wines the New Fake Orgasms? by Ji Spott
Spott’s fascinating thesis is that fake wines are part of the great tradition of fake orgasms. Who do they hurt? “A woman fakes an orgasm in order to flatter her partner into thinking he has satisfied her,” Spott writes, “just as a well-executed fake wine fools him into thinking he’s a serious collector. It’s all about ego, that he wants to be fooled, and, anyway, when all is said and done, wet spots all look alike.” Spott argues that no matter how hard the business tries to eliminate fake wines, it will not succeed. “Powerful men with huge wine cellars don’t care if it’s fake, as long as it seems real — just like their selfish and poorly endowed twins enjoy the fake orgasms. Once they find out it’s fake, then they make a fuss. But until then, they won’t stop bragging about it.” I found Spott’s thesis utterly convincing. As she points out, “If you’ve never seen a real one, well, a fake one makes you feel like an expert.”