Lightning strikes twice

(by susie)

Our household is in a state of shock – albeit a thoroughly delighted one.

We were on cloud nine after Peter learnt in September that he’d qualified to become a Master of Wine, making it two in the household. (Since when we’ve been pondering what the collective noun for MWs should be…our best efforts include a ‘bevvy’ and ‘double vision’. Any other suggestions would be gratefully received…)

We thought things couldn’t get any better. But then, last Wednesday night, they did.

The Institute of Masters of Wine holds its annual reception once a year, in early November, after its celebrated claret tasting (this year it was the 2006 vintage on show – click here for our review).

Last year it was my turn to be officially invested as a Master of Wine – which Peter later wrote up across several blogs, with this being the main one.

This year, it was Peter’s turn. We weren’t expecting much, apart from a fantastic evening enjoying Bollinger together with family, friends and fellow MWs in the magnificent surroundings of the Vintners’ Hall.

But this turned out to be another evening to remember, as Peter picked up three awards including the Outstanding Achievement prize. The awards were as follows:

  • Villa Maria award for excellence in the viticulture paper – Peter Richards MW
  • Viña Errázuriz award for excellence in the business of wine paper – Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW
  • Taransaud Tonnellerie award for excellence in the production of wine paper – Rhys Pender MW
  • Robert Mondavi award for overall excellence in the theory part of the examination – Peter Richards MW
  • Madame Bollinger award for excellence in the practical/tasting part of the examination – Alex Hunt MW
  • Noval award for excellence in the dissertation – Jean Reilly MW
  • Institute of Masters of Wine Outstanding Achievement award, sponsored by the Austrian Wine Marketing Board (formerly the Tim Derouet award) – Peter Richards MW

Being the proud wife I am, I’d also mention that two dissertations were specifically mentioned for being outstanding in the Noval award category – Peter’s thesis on Chilean Syrah as well as Jean Reilly’s on US sommelier attitudes towards German Riesling. But, though the choice was deemed very close, it was fantastic to see Jean pick up the award.

We do have some video footage of the awards, kindly shot by Peter’s father Nigel, but at the moment Peter is wrestling with some technical issues on a format front. We’ll hope to post this in due course – if not, the IMW will be posting a professional video of the event soon, and we’ll put up a link to that too. (More professional photos will also be appearing on this post too, in due course.)

Aside from the awards, the Institute’s new chairman, Lynne Sherriff MW, delivered a heart-felt speech about the value of education.

She commented on the palpable air of excitement and celebration, which was spot on – the room was buzzing all night, which is just as it should be. It takes a lot of hard slog to become an MW, so it’s only fitting that the celebration of attaining the qualification is joyous and uplifting. Even if such an atmosphere does, at times, seem slightly out of place in the somewhat regal surroundings of Vintners’ Hall.

But, while awards are all well and good, the main event was the inauguration of 11 brilliant new MWs, to all of whom huge congratulations are due. They are:

  • David Allen MW (UK)
  • Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW (Belgium)
  • Sebastian Bredal MW (Norway)
  • Ned Goodwin MW (Japan)
  • Alex Hunt MW (UK)
  • Melanie Jones MW (UK)
  • Justin Knock MW (UK)
  • Kate McIntyre MW (Australia)
  • Rhys Pender MW (Canada)
  • Jean Reilly MW (USA)
  • Peter Richards MW (UK)

For those keen on statistics, as of November 2010 there are 289 Masters of Wine worldwide. Two of these were also being honoured at the event – celebrating a half century of MW-ship were two graduates of the class of 1960: Bill Warre MW and Michael Broadbent MW.

As for how we celebrated, unlike last year’s brilliant dinner at Coq d’Argent, this year saw us hot-footing it back to Winchester on the late train to relieve our expert (and very kind) baby sitter, my mum Jean.

(The family connections are telling. Neither of us could have achieved what we have without the unwavering and unceasingly generous support of our families, for which we are immensely grateful.)

However, we did manage to prolong the celebration – with some very fine Oudinot champagne, courtesy of M&S Waterloo, drunk out of Peppa Pig mugs, courtesy of our daughter.

A fitting end to a truly joyous day.