Wine Professor Discusses Trends
July 26, 2011 3:35 PM
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 15, 2011
Wine Professor Discusses Trends
If you ever run into a Master of Wine, be sure to have a nice long chat. If nothing else, it will keep you humble.
Californian Liz Thach recently passed the notoriously difficult Master of Wine examination. Fewer than 300 experts in 23 countries hold that title, so she's in rare company. No one from Wisconsin is in this select group yet.
I think of these pros as the rock stars of the wine world, but most people just see them as the foremost authorities. British author and wine critic Jancis Robinson is one of the most widely recognized.
Thach (pronounced Tosh) was recently in Milwaukee for the first time visiting a friend, but because of a schedule conflict, I caught up with her by phone after her visit.
Her initial sip of our city was a good one: "I didn't realize how big and vibrant Milwaukee was."
Thach - with both MW and PhD after her name - is a professor of management and wine business at Sonoma State University. She is also a prolific writer, with 100 articles, six book chapters, and five wine books to her name.
Actually, one of her books was co-authored with Kate Kelly under the pen name of Kathleen Tosh. "Chardonnay Chalice" (Kathleen Tosh Books, 2010, $10.99), falls in the category of a "cozy" and reflects the lighter side of this academic's career.
"I love mystery novels and so it's a way to put wine and mysteries together," she said, noting that the next mystery to be decanted will be called "Zinfandel Zanies."
Despite her top-shelf credentials, she found the three-part MW exam to be "challenging, to say the least." She began studying for it about five years ago.
It's no surprise that Professor Thach did just fine on the theoretical part.
And, as she tells it, it was her students who egged her on, suggesting that she try for the exalted title, rather than just encouraging them to do it.
But the practical part - three 12-wine blind tastings - was more difficult for her.
"When I began preparing I only had a California palate - and only about 5% of the wines in the exam are from California," she said.
To get ready for the exam, she did extensive traveling and tasting.
"It was fun, lots of fun," she said.
The third section is a 10,000-word dissertation; and for her treatise, Thach decanted differences between men and women when it comes to "wine-drinking occasions."
The short version is that men tilt toward the "show-off factor," which means that they might end up talking about, for example, technical details to show what they know.
"It's the ego side of wine," she said.
In contrast, "women like to drink wine for social reasons, to get together with friends," she said.
When asked to do some trend-spotting, this wine business expert mentioned the "rise in the United States of the millennials," the generation from about age 21 to 34.
These young wine drinkers are spurring trends and driving sales, according to Thach, who recently turned 50.
Among the millennial group, the preferences are sparkling wines and champagne, along with sweet wines such as Riesling.
"And . . . they are drinking lots of red wine, too," she said.
And then there's Muscat or Moscato, a fragrant sweetie that hip-hopped to popularity because rappers such as Kayne West have mentioned it in videos.
According to Thach, Sutter Home's Moscato sold out thanks to rapper rhymes.
"Wine in some ways is like fashion - it's hard to forecast," she said.
As to what this new Master of Wine is drinking this summer, it's "dry, crisp sauvignon blanc from around the world," as well as rosé, usually from Provence, she said.
And with a steak on the grill, she makes the smart choice, "a nice, big Cabernet."