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A. Rheingau (Germany)

B. Rías Baixas (Spain)

C. Vouvray (France)

D. Condrieu (France)

D.

The tiny village of Condrieu in the northern Rhône Valley of France sits at a curve in the Rhône River. The name comes from the French coin de ruisseau, “corner of the brook.” Condrieu is famous for its white wines, all of which are made from the grape variety Viognier.

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A. Bâttonage

B. Extended contact with yeast lees

C. Malolactic fermentation

D. Aging in new oak

C.

Buttery flavors in wine are the result of diacetyl, which is the organic compound that makes butter taste buttery. For its part, diacetyl is a by-product of malolactic fermentation, the process by which beneficial bacteria convert crisp malic acid in wine to softer-feeling lactic acid. Malolactic fermentation can happen naturally or be induced by the winemaker. It can also be prevented from happening (by the addition of sulphur dioxide). Malolactic fermentation is very common with Chardonnay, which in turn means that many Chardonnays have a buttery flavor. Red wine too goes through malolactic fermentation but other compounds in red wine (especially tannin) generally obscure any buttery flavor.

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A. A process for removing smoke taint from win

B. The name, on TikTok, for wine influencers

C. A collective name for new hybrids of grapes being developed

D. A new medication that prevents headaches and/or lowers their severity

C.

Ok this was a tough one; but stay with me because I think we’ll all be hearing more about (and drinking) PIWI in the future. According to a fascinating article about them in Meininger’s Wine Business International, PIWI stands for pilzwiderstandsfähige, a German term for fungus-resistant grape varieties. PIWI varieties are resistant to many of the most severe diseases that can affect a vine—phylloxera, Pierce’s Disease, and Powdery and Downey mildew for example. (Pierce’s Disease alone costs growers in California $100 million in vineyard losses every year). PIWIs are all hybrids (in this case, Vitis Vinifera varieties crossed with varieties that belongs to the North American species Vitis Arizonica). In the past, hybrids had a bad reputation for their somewhat off-putting flavor often characterized as “foxy.” But the new hybrids, grown in good terroirs at low yields, reportedly can produce delicious wines. (I have not yet tasted a PIWI wine). But here’s the reason I think they’ll be in our future and I’m excited to try them: PIWI varieties are not only disease resistant, they are hardier than vinifera varieties, and may be able to better withstand the chaos of climate change. These varieties are also environmentally friendly. They can be grown organically more easily than 100% vinifera varieties. Organic viticulture in turn means less or no spraying which means fewer trips into the vineyard with a tractor, so far less fuel use, and soils that are spared from being compacted by the tractor. The University of California at Davis is one of the research institutes working intently on the development of PIWI varieties. Wines made from PIWI varieties are currently being made and sold in Germany, France, and on the East Coast of the United States in Vermont, North Carolina, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Virginia.

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A. Zinfandel tends to be planted in obscure places, and thus “escapes” frequent replanting

B. Zinfandel costs more to replant than other varieties

C. Many old Zinfandel vineyards were saved by the creation of white Zinfandel

D. Zinfandel grows in terroirs that are not conducive to growing other varieties, and thus the vineyards that exist tend to be left alone

C.

In California, one of the ironic (and lucky) twists of fate was how the creation of semi-sweet, bargain-priced white Zinfandel in 1972 saved thousands of acres of precious old Zinfandel vines from being torn out. Invented (reportedly by accident) by Bob Trinchero, owner of Sutter Home winery, white Zinfandel became so popular that by the 1980s, it was outselling every other type of wine in the US. For its part, Zinfandel (old and young) was the most planted red grape in California until 1998 when Cabernet Sauvignon superseded it. Now it’s number three.

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A. China

B. Spain

C. France

D. Italy

B.

Spain. In fact, with 2.38 million acres planted with grapevines, Spain has about 20% more vineyard land than the next most vine-covered country, France—with its 1.98 million acres. Many of the vines in Spain are old, low-yielding, and widely spaced to help compensate for the extremely dry climate. China comes in third with 1.94 million acres planted, beating out Italy which comes in fourth with 1.77 million acres planted.

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A. A southern Italian grape variety said to have been a favorite of Julius Caesar, and recently rescued from near extinction

B. The modern practice of growing grapevines up trees, named after a Greek viticulturist who revived the ancient technique

C. A type of crushed rocky soil prevalent in Georgia, Armenia, and other places in eastern Europe that were early domestication sites for wine

D. The original name for Cabernet Franc

D.

Achéria is the oldest name for, and most primitive clone of, Cabernet Franc.  Although widely assumed to have originated in Bordeaux, Cabernet Franc (Achéria) is native to the Basque Country of northern Spain. From there it spread over the Pyrenees to the Gironde (the area around Bordeaux), where it encountered Sauvignon Blanc (which, for its part, had moved south from the Loire Valley). In the Gironde, Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc had a nice moment in Nature and gave birth to Cabernet Sauvignon.

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A. Greece

B. Australia

C. Argentina

D. Italy

B.

When, in the late 1800s, phylloxera destroyed most of the vineyards of Europe, plus many in the Americas, parts of Australia side-stepped the pest. In particular, the state of South Australia was one of the few places that never had (and still doesn’t have) phylloxera thanks to strict quarantine laws that were put in place in the 1890s. As a result, South Australia is now home to many of the oldest vineyards in the world—vineyards which possess the original genetic plant material of Europe’s grapevines. Just two examples from the Barossa Valley include the Old Garden Vineyard (owned by the Hewitson family) which includes the world’s oldest Mourvèdre, planted in 1853. And vines in Penfold’s Kalimna “Block 42,” planted in 1888, are thought to be the world’s oldest producing Cabernet Sauvignon vines.

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A. Diamond Creek “Lake Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon 1987

B. Opus One 1985

C. Heitz “Martha’s Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon 1973

D. Colgin “Herb Lamb” 1990

A.

Diamond Creek’s 1987 “Lake Vineyard” Cabernet (only 75 cases were made) was the first wine in the Napa Valley to cost $100. Opus One 1985 was released at a price of $55 per bottle. Heitz 1973 “Martha’s Vineyard” Cabernet cost $13.50 when it was released. And Colgin “Herb Lamb” 1990 doesn’t exist; the first vintage of Colgin “Herb Lamb” was in 1992 and was $39 per bottle. As an aside, the first Napa Valley wine to cost more than $1,000 was the 2014 Screaming Eagle.

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A. Exclusive by houses who grow their own grapes and buy from growers

B. Exclusively by houses and independent growers

C. By houses, growers, and co-operatives

D. By houses and negotiants

C.

Champagne wines are made by houses, growers, and co-operatives. There are 370 houses, 16,200 growers, and 130 cooperatives. Of these, 4,300 produce Champagne and 1,800 export it around the world.

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A. A sommelier for cider

B. A stick-like device used for stirring the lees in a barrel

C. The French name for the paddle used in Burgundy for “punching down” Pinot Noir

D. A device used (in biodynamic viticulture) to clean cow horns before they are buried

A.

Interest in fine cider is growing exponentially each year. There are now certified pommeliers (cider sommeliers) in the UK, US, Norway, and Italy.

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A. Germany

B. Czech Republic

C. China

D. United States

B.

This was a tough one! According to World Population Review, as of 2020 (the latest figures available), on a per capita basis, the Czech Republic took the lead with 48 gallons (182 liters) per person. (The Czech Republic was where pilsners were invented.) In fact, in 2020, beer was cheaper than bottled water in the Czech Republic. The next three countries (in rank order) were Austria, Poland, and Romania. Germany came in 5th. The US ranked 17th, and China, 25th.

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A. A small bottle of wine holding 187 milliliters

B. A tool that can be inserted into barrels of sweet wines to draw out a sample

C. A device inserted near the roots of vines to measure water availability

D. A round object that can be inserted into hoses to clean them

A.

Also known as a piccolo or split, a snipe is a quarter-bottle of wine (187 milliliters). It’s smaller obviously than a demi or half, which is a half-bottle (375 milliliters). In parts of Great Britain, a favorite late afternoon pick-me-up is a “snipe of Champagne and a scone.”

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A. Discuss the current role and potential future use of hybrids in viticulture

B. Discuss the typical regimen from harvest through aging in the making of a Grand Cru Classé wine

C. Delineate the steps involved in making an oak barrel from forest to final use by a winemaker

D. Discuss how color molecules may influence tannin in the winemaking process

A.

Yes, the Master of Wine Exam is hard. And Question A was just one of the initial “assessment” questions to get into the program. Once a candidate passes to Stage Two,  the difficulty of the questions gets insane. But each year a number of brilliant people do indeed pass. Today there are 418 Masters of Wine working in the wine industry in 30 countries.  The Institute of Masters of Wine was founded in England nearly 70 years ago.

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A. Rural wineries working with indigenous grapes

B. Cabernet Sauvignon

C. Syrah

D. Irrigation

C.

For three quarters of a century, the most iconic—and expensive—Australian Shiraz has been Grange, made by the powerful wine firm Penfolds. (Shiraz is the name commonly used in Australia for the grape Syrah). Grange was first made in 1951 by Penfolds’s then winemaker, Max Schubert, who, after a tasting trip to Bordeaux, returned to Australia with an experiment in mind: Could he make a wine similar in structure, complexity, and ageability to a top Bordeaux—but using Shiraz (rather than Cabernet) grapes, and using American oak rather than French oak (as in Bordeaux)? Schubert’s bosses were unconvinced, and in fact told him to abandon the project. He carried on anyway. Today Grange is not only one of the country’s most famous wines; it also has one of the longest track records when it comes to aging. Some wines from the 1950s made by Max Schubert are still in amazing condition.

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A. Robert Mondavi Winery

B. Schramsberg

C. Beringer

D. Stony Hill

D.

Stony Hill, a small cult winery on the lower hills of Napa Valley’s Spring Mountain, planted Chardonnay in 1947 and became famous for creating the first mailing list of customers who regularly bought the wine. (The mailing list was handwritten on index cards). Schramsberg Vineyards planted chardonnay for its sparkling wines in 1965. The Robert Mondavi Winery’s first chardonnay was planted in 1970. And Beringer, which was founded in 1876, first made chardonnay in 1978 from grapes planted a few years earlier.

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A. Their wine industries were all once dominated by large co-operatives

B. More white wine than red is produced in each place

C. They are all producers of famous sweet wines

D. They are all considered New World wine regions

C.

Some of the most luscious sweet wines in the world come from these three countries. Canada is famous for its ice wine, which, like eiswein from Austria and Germany, must be made from grapes frozen naturally on the vine. Hungary is the home of Tokaji Aszú, the first sweet wine in the world made from botrytized grapes. (In this, Hungary predates Sauternes by roughly two centuries). And South Africa is renowned for Constantia, first made in the late 1600s in the Coastal Region near Cape Town. Canadian ice wine is made from a variety of grapes, but ice wines made from Riesling and Vidal are especially prized. Tokaji Aszú is made primarily from the Hungarian grape Furmint. And Constantia is made from Muscat de Frontignan.

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A. Along the Pacific Ocean coast in Patagonia, Chile

B. Along the coast of the Cape of Good Hope, in South Africa

C. Along the Indian Ocean coast in southwestern Australia

D. In southern Argentina, about 1,000 miles from Antarctica

C.

At the southwestern tip of the state of Western Australia, lies the wine region known as the Great Southern. The coastline borders the Indian Ocean. Wine grapes were first planted in this remote part of Australia in 1859. But the region only began to draw world attention (and Australian wine awards) as of the 1970s. Today there are about 70 producers—mostly small, family-owned estates—as well as many young innovative winemakers. The Great Southern (which is south of the better-known Margaret River region in Western Australia) specializes in dry Riesling and cool-climate Shiraz.

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A. It was once a phrase that signaled “alarm” as when the hairs of a dog are raised

B. It originally referred to an old English grog of potent hard liquors that made people feel numb to any (headache) pain

C. It originally referred to a treatment for a bite from a dog with rabies

D. It refers to the utterly slim (like the width of a dog’s hair) chance of feeling ok the next morning after drinking too much

C.

As almost everyone who has ever drunk too much knows, “hair of the dog” is a colloquial expression for drinking an alcoholic beverage as a way of curing a hangover. (A stiff Bloody Mary is many drinkers’ first choice). The original expression referred to a method of treating a rabid dog bite by placing hairs of the dog into the bite wound. This was just one example of the ancient medical theory similia similibus curantur (Latin for “like cures like”), which is the basic tenet of homeopathy.

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A. Grand Cru

B. Premier Cru

C. Premier Grand Cru

D. Cru Exceptionel

A.

Ah, the French. So many classification systems. In this case, the Côte de Beaune is the southern part of the 30-mile-long escarpment known as the Côte d’Or, from which come all of Burgundy’s most renowned wines. The top vineyards in the Côte de Beaune (and in the northern part of the Côte d’Or called the Côte de Nuits) are designated Grand Cru. There are only 33 Grand Cru vineyards in all of Burgundy. The most famous Grand Cru is the one every wine lover has heard of: the Romanée-Conti vineyard in the village of Vosne-Romanée.

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A. The high acidity in sparkling wines from southern England

B. The relatively low acidity in some Champagne wines that were originally made for the British market

C. The artificial flavor of wines that have been manually acidified with tartaric acid in order to boost their low natural acidity

D. It’s a euphemism for wines that are very high in alcohol which masks the natural acidity in the wine, causing that acidity to seem almost nonexistent

A.

England’s sparkling wine producers commonly describe their wines as having “English acidity,” by which they mean—a lot of it. Many English sparklers clock in at 8 to 9 grams of acidity per liter; Champagne by comparison often comes in at 5 to 6 grams. The best English sparkling wines, as a result, are racy, nervy, starched, crisp and have a nice “bite.” By the way, the meteoric rise of a small but significant sparkling wine industry in England has been one of the 21st century’s most unlikely if inspiring surprises. If you haven’t yet tried a sparkling wine from southern England (where the soils are an extension of the limestone soils found in Champagne), you must. The wines are fantastic. My favorites include Gusbourne, Nyetimber, and Digby—all available in the U.S.