There’s a lot going on this week. Between the nail-biting presidential election, the continuously increasing numbers of COVID-related cases and deaths, and all the implications this has on our industry, the news is just…overwhelming.

Not least of which is the ongoing Court of Master Sommeliers Americas scandal involving several female wine professionals who have been sexually abused by their male superiors. Both the CMS-A and GuildSomm have issued separate apologies and promises for internal investigation and reconstruction; female sommeliers who have chosen to stay associated with the CMS-A (note: there are those who have chosen to leave the court) have issued their own apology and promise to help promote change from within the organization; and there is even an online petition you can sign to help move the process forward. But, as wine-searcher reports, the effects of these women’s testimonials along with the outpouring of media attention this scandal has garnered are just drops of water in a vast ocean—a real solution, any implementation of real change (not to mention punishment for those guilty of these crimes) may be yet far away.

It is the responsibility of our industry as a whole to make a difference. Whatever sector you’re in, whatever level your position is within your company, let us all be aware of how we treat one another, how our colleagues are being treated by each other. And if you see something, say something, do something. We all have a human right to be treated like, well, humans.

Cheers, my friends. Be safe, be well, be healthy, be kind.

New York Times: In Trump and Biden, a Choice of Teetotalers for President

Spirits may be low around the country, but don’t expect them to be raised in the White House after the election; neither President Trump nor Joseph R. Biden Jr. partakes in alcohol.

People watching the first debate between President Trump and Joseph R. Biden Jr. at a restaurant in Las Vegas.Credit...Bridget Bennett for The New York Times
People watching the first debate between President Trump and Joseph R. Biden Jr. at a restaurant in Las Vegas.Credit…Bridget Bennett for The New York Times

A presidential election that has driven a nation to drink is being fought to the bitter end by two men who do not.

For the first time in modern history, both major party candidates for the White House are teetotalers. President Trump and his Democratic opponent, Joseph R. Biden Jr., have not had an alcoholic drink over the course of their lives, by their own accounts.

This Teetotaler Campaign, and the fact that this circumstance has drawn so little notice, is to some extent evidence of how the once hard-drinking culture of politics is changing. Candidates, campaign aides and reporters are drinking less, aware of the scrutiny that comes in the age of cellphones and Twitter, not to mention the nonstop demands of a round-the-clock campaign.

But it also goes to the way Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump, for all their stark differences, share some similarities in character and background, according to biographers and others who have observed them over the years. READ MORE…

New York Times: Elite Wine Group Suspends Master Sommeliers

After recent sexual harassment allegations by many women, the Court of Master Sommeliers has apologized and announced next steps.

The Court of Master Sommeliers confers the most prestigious title in American wine.Credit...Karsten Moran for The New York Times
The Court of Master Sommeliers confers the most prestigious title in American wine.Credit…Karsten Moran for The New York Times

Seven members of the Court of Master Sommeliers, Americas, an elite body of wine professionals, have been suspended from all court activities, and another has resigned after a New York Times report last week on the group’s longtime pattern of sexual harassment and conflicts of interest.

The men suspended — Greg Harrington, Eric Entrikin, Robert Bath, Matt Stamp, Matthew Citriglia, Drew Hendricks and Fred Dame, a co-founder of the organization — will be subject to an external investigation, a representative for the court said. They are suspended from court activities but not from the court itself, pending a hearing process required by California law. (The court is a registered nonprofit based in Napa, Calif.) READ MORE…

wine-searcher: Somm Sex Scandal—Wine’s Me-Too Moment

An over-the-top abuser gets vilified in a reveal that is only the tip of the iceberg.

© iStock | Female somms have had to deal with abuse from customers and from within their own ranks.
© iStock | Female somms have had to deal with abuse from customers and from within their own ranks.

The hospitality business has always been a dirty place. That was even before Mario Battali got busted and it was revealed that there was a “rape room” at the Spotted Pig, one of New York’s trendiest restaurants.

The amount of young people who have historically kept restaurants, bars and hotels humming mixed with long hours and massive drug and alcohol abuse have not added up to a pretty picture. The Kitchen Confidential culture that raged in dining rooms across the country has long kept a happy face on a nasty reality even after Anthony Bourdain stopped shooting up and became a big proponent of women’s rights.

As one extremely abusive Master Sommelier – Geoff Kruth – has gotten torn apart by a dozen ambitious women pursuing one of the top ranks in the wine world, the rest of us in the industry are just waiting for what comes next. READ MORE…

Court of Master Sommeliers, Americas Apology

The Court of Master Sommeliers, Americas recognizes that it has failed its membership, our industry, and most importantly, the women who bravely shared their stories. We are profoundly sorry and offer our sincerest apologies to Jane Lopes, Courtney Schiessl, Christina Chilcoat, Rachel van Til, Rania Zayyat, Ivy Anderson, Victoria James, Madeleine Thompson, Liz Dowty Mitchell, Alexandra Fox, J.R. Ayala, Courtney Keeling, Kate Ham, and any woman who has experienced similar incidents of harassment and violence. READ MORE…

Statement From GuildSomm:

As so many in the wine industry have struggled to absorb the recent reports, GuildSomm has been working to respond directly to the alleged despicable transgressions documented by the New York Times involving Master Sommeliers. Three of the accused have or had close ties to GuildSomm, and we have a responsibility to evaluate our organization to protect our members, staff, and sponsors.

We are appalled by these graphic reports of sexual misconduct in our industry and recognize many of our members may see their own experiences reflected in this article. It is absolutely unacceptable our colleagues have been subjected to this kind of behavior.

We want to be clear: GuildSomm condemns sexual harassment, coercion, and violence in all of its forms. We must confront the abhorrent behavior that has hurt so many people – especially women.  This will be only the first of many steps needed as we work to heal our industry.

To ensure GuildSomm is a safe space for all, here are the immediate actions we are taking:

  • GuildSomm no longer employs any of those accused in the recent report. A named board member is also on leave to allow a full external investigation to be completed
  • We are commissioning an internal investigation by an independent agency to bring to light any previous or ongoing incidents of sexual misconduct involving any GuildSomm employee or board member
  • A confidential system is being created for members and staff to report sexual harassment. All complaints will be reviewed by employee leadership, the GuildSomm board, and its legal team, which will conduct a third-party investigation
  • We’ve retained Empowered Hospitality to independently assess and update our employee handbook
  • We are recruiting new members to our board of directors to include gender, racial and cultural diversity, and expertise from outside the wine industry

We know these actions are only the first phase of the work needed to rebuild trust in our community. For you, our members, we are determined to build an environment that is stronger and safer, while being the best resource to further your wine education goals.

wine-searcher: Chaos Reigns at Scandal-hit Somms’ Court

More Master Sommeliers are suspended as women question whether the erstwhile old boys’ club can survive without complete change.

© Shutterstock | The Court of Master Sommeliers, Americas has some soul-searching to do.

[D]irect outreach, on behalf of the Court’s two female board members, to each of the 21 women who took their story to The New York Times (NYT) it has not gone over well. Virginia Philip of the Breakers in Palm Beach; and the Marana, Arizona-based consultant Laura Williamson have been connecting with each of women and much of the content of their interactions has not been well received.

According to Liz Dowty Mitchell, a New Orleans-based owner of Mitchell Somm Selections and one of the 21 women who spoke out about the abuse to the NYT, said that Williamson texted a statement – to another candidate – saying that in theory the reporting of an article is only an allegation until there is proof … READ MORE…

The Drinks Business: How Will the US Election Impact Fine Wine?

US voters and political animals of all stripes are nervously/eagerly examining every potential outcome of one of the tensest US elections of recent times but what effect could the outcome have on the fine wine market and tariffs placed on European wines?

US 2020 Election and fine wine imports

Last year the current incumbent of the Oval Office, President Trump, embarked on a trade war with the European Union over subsidies given to Airbus, part of his ‘America First policy’, while the EU hit back pointing to beneficial subsidies the US had given to Boeing.

Both sides began placing tariffs on a wide assortment of products, with the US imposing tariffs on US$7.5 billion worth of EU goods – including wine, spirits and liqueurs – as result of this dispute.

Currently, still wine (not over 14% ABV) made in France, Germany, Spain and the UK transported in containers of two litres or less; Scotch whisky; single malt whiskey from Northern Ireland; and liqueurs made in Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain and the UK that are exported to the US are subject to 25% import tariffs. READ MORE…

NPR: U.S. Officially Leaving Paris Climate Agreement

The Hunter power plant in Utah generates electricity by burning coal. Coal combustion releases enormous amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. The Utah plant is scheduled to keep operating until 2042. George Frey/AFP via Getty Images
The Hunter power plant in Utah generates electricity by burning coal. Coal combustion releases enormous amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. The Utah plant is scheduled to keep operating until 2042.
George Frey/AFP via Getty Images

The United States will formally leave the Paris Agreement on Wednesday, no matter who wins the election. Of the nearly 200 nations that signed the agreement, the U.S. is the only one to walk away from its promises to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

President Trump originally announced his intention to withdraw from the landmark agreement in 2017 and formally notified the United Nations last year. A mandatory yearlong waiting period ends on Wednesday, a coincidence that nonetheless highlights the Trump administration’s commitment to derailing efforts that address climate change. READ MORE…

SevenFifty Daily: The New Conversation About White Wine and Tannins

More winemakers are using partial skin contact to create whites with firmer tannin structures and greater complexity

Photo courtesy of Clos Mogador.
Photo courtesy of Clos Mogador.

Words such as “grip” and “astringency,” are creeping into the tasting notes of a growing number of white wines from Portugal, Spain, and California. Historically, tannins have been an evaluation point exclusively for red wines when describing texture and mouthfeel. Now, however, more winemakers are focusing on the tannin structure of their whites. READ MORE…

Decanter: Prosecco rosé wines to make debut in UK and US

Sparkling rosé wines made under the Prosecco DOC banner have been approved for export, and one UK retailer has wasted no time in making bottles available online.

Prosecco rosé wines have been approved for export. Credit: Consorzio Tutela Prosecco DOC
Prosecco rosé wines have been approved for export. Credit: Consorzio Tutela Prosecco DOC

Prosecco rosé has made its debut in the UK, with supermarket Aldi selling bottles of the new DOC sparkling online for for £6.49 as of yesterday (2 November).

Fans around the world, from the US to Asia, are set to get the chance to try Prosecco DOC rosé wines in the coming months.

The new category was officially approved by European Union officials last week, meaning wines can now be exported. READ MORE…

The Wall Street Journal: Australia’s Treasury Wine Shelves Penfolds Spinoff as China Weighs Tariffs

A Chinese industry group has asked Beijing to impose retrospective tariffs on Australian wine

The Penfolds brand has garnered a huge following among drinkers and collectors alike.

Trade frictions between Australia and China have contributed to one global winemaker putting a cork in plans to spin off a luxury wine brand that is highly prized by collectors and can sell for thousands of dollars a bottle.

Treasury Wine Estates Ltd. on Thursday said it had frozen plans to list its Penfolds business separately, a day after the company said it had become aware that a Chinese industry association has asked Beijing to impose retrospective tariffs on Australian wine. READ MORE…

South China Morning Post: China-Australia relations: ‘speechless’ exporters fear Beijing may impose crippling anti-dumping duty on Australian wine

China launched an anti-dumping investigation into Australian wines in August to review whether imported Australian wines were being sold below “fair” prices and hurting China’s wine industry. Photo: AFP

China may impose an anti-dumping duty of more than 200 per cent on Australian wine as soon as next week – a move that would effectively kick Australian wine brands out of the Chinese market as exporters are still reeling from the news this week of a possible outright ban on wine and other Australian products.

The duty imposition, as flagged by industry group Australian Grape & Wine, could come on top of an anticipated ban on Australian exports that has already seen shipments of Australian wine cancelled or suspended this week. READ MORE…

wine-searcher: King of Wine Fraud Facing Freedom

He’s back! Rudy Kurniawan gets out of prison this week, so lock up your wine cellars.

© Mother Jones | Inmates at Reeves celebrate Rudy's release in the traditional prison manner.
© Mother Jones | Inmates at Reeves celebrate Rudy’s release in the traditional prison manner.

Wine counterfeiter Rudy Kurniawan has spent most of the last seven years in one of the 10 worst prisons in America, dealing with bad food, no medical care, and an inmate population reportedly run by hardened criminals from Mexico.

But he will be a free man next week. Kurniawan, still just 44 years old, is scheduled to be released from prison Saturday and deported from the United States.

Once he gets home, he can probably return to the family business: Fraud. His uncles in Indonesia embezzled more than $800 million from banks and were never caught, according to the film “Sour Grapes”. This should give him the capital to start making counterfeit wine again. READ MORE…

New York Times: In Russia’s Idyllic Wine Country, Dark Tales of Dreams Dashed

A verdant slice of southern Russia evokes Tuscany and produces surprisingly magical wine. But bureaucratic nightmares and police raids intrude on the aspirations of upstart vintners.

Ivan Karakezidi playing a flute at his wine vault. “It’s counterproductive to do business here,” Mr. Karakezidi said. “No matter what, they will convict you, lock you up, take it all away and envy you.”Credit...Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times
Ivan Karakezidi playing a flute at his wine vault. “It’s counterproductive to do business here,” Mr. Karakezidi said. “No matter what, they will convict you, lock you up, take it all away and envy you.” Credit…Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

Russia has no shortage of innovators, risk-takers and freethinking entrepreneurs. But their country is not built for them. Sooner or later, the state security apparatus makes its unwelcome appearance.

Visit the velvety slopes dipping down to Russia’s verdant Black Sea coast, and you will see that this applies even to wine.

Vladimir Prokhorov, bespectacled and profane, has been making wine from the grapes bulging off the vines for 30 years. He has never been abroad, let alone to Portugal, but his Madeira is magical. His cellar is his shrine, where an icon of Jesus sits next to the thermometer, and where he and his wife never set foot when they are in a bad mood.

But the oak barrels — marked in chalk “2016 Muscat Hamburg,” “2016 Cahors” — now make a hollow sound when you tap them. The police showed up last summer at his winery in southern Russia and drained them all. READ MORE…

Philadelphia Inquirer: Philly’s cash-rich GoPuff buys West Coast’s BevMo delivery service for $350 million


The Philadelphia-based GoPuff delivery service, whose 200 neighborhood delivery centers across the Northeast, Midwest, and South have seen sales rocket since last spring’s coronavirus shutdowns, has agreed to buy Concord, Calif., liquor delivery service BevMo and its 161 stores in three Western states for $350 million.

The deal marks seven-year-old GoPuff’s first acquisition. It would boost the company’s workforce to more than 5,000 warehouse workers, tech, retail, and office staff — plus drivers — and increase its value, as calculated from investment and acquisition costs, to more than $4 billion, making it among the most valuable Philadelphia-based start-ups. READ MORE…

The Guardian: Study links Van Gogh’s delirium to alcohol withdrawal

Artist reported ‘unbearable hallucinations’ in productive period after he cut off his ear

A detail of Vincent van Gogh’s 1889 Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear. A study has revealed the artist had become increasingly dependent on wine and absinthe. Photograph: The Courtauld Gallery/PA
A detail of Vincent van Gogh’s 1889 Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear. A study has revealed the artist had become increasingly dependent on wine and absinthe. Photograph: The Courtauld Gallery/PA

A pioneering study into Vincent van Gogh’s psychiatric health in the years immediately before his suicide has found that the artist had delirium, in part due to alcohol withdrawal after cutting off his ear and being admitted to hospital.

An article published by researchers in the International Journal of Bipolar Disorders has pointed to evidence that Van Gogh was increasingly heavily dependent on wine and absinthe from 1886 until his death on 29 July 1890 at the age of 37. READ MORE…

Blogs Worth a Read

Taken from the list of Blogs I follow regularly, here are just a few posts from this past week I think are worth a read. Shoot me a note if you have suggestions of blogs to follow or want your blog included on that list.

Jill Zimorski: Statement from Female Master Sommeliers

Jill Zimorski Master Sommelier/DipWSET
Jill Zimorski
Master Sommelier/DipWSET; @jillzimorski


Change.Org: Candidates for Change

petition to Court of Master Sommeliers

As a community of candidates with the Court of Master Sommeliers, we are extremely appalled by the Court’s recent response to the findings of abuse detailed in the New York Times.

It has and will continue to be our mission to hold ourselves to the highest standards both with regards to education and matters of social justice which have directly impacted our community.  Moral standards should be adhered to by candidates and Master Sommeliers alike. We are asking for injustices to be corrected.  We are asking for accountability and immediate action for the following failures on the part of the CMS-A Board of Directors.  READ MORE AND SIGN THE PETITION HERE…

Vino Joy News: China to ban imports of Australian wine

In a significant escalation of tensions, China has ordered merchants to stop purchasing at least seven categories of Australian commodities including wine

Reasoning for the suspension and barring as the memo specifically instructs is “for commercial purpose”, as opposed to political retaliation.
Reasoning for the suspension and barring as the memo specifically instructs is “for commercial purpose”, as opposed to political retaliation.

China and Australia’s relations this year sank to the lowest level in history due to coronavirus inquiry. China has already barred Australian beef imports from four companies, slapped 80% tariff on Australian barley and earlier in August threated to levy over 200% tariff on Australian wines.

China is Australia’s biggest wine market, and Australian wine takes up roughly 40% of market share in the country, the biggest wine category by far, ahead of France and Chile. READ MORE…

VinePair: Do Emerging Wine Regions Need a Signature Variety to Break Out?


No event in viticultural history has captured the moment that an unheralded wine region shot to fame quite like the 1976 Judgement of Paris. The results of the blind tasting, in which bottles of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay bested wines from the leading French producers of the time, stunned all. In that moment, America’s wine industry finally emerged from the dark shadow of the failed Prohibition experiment.

In the years after the now-famous tasting, Napa producers doubled down on Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, embracing the varieties as their own. Unlike in Europe, the names of these varieties took center stage on wine labels, which only strengthened the ties between grape and region. Before long, Napa’s reputation as a world class destination for Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay was sealed. READ MORE…

Tim Atkin: Burgundy’s benevolent haunting

Photo of Clos de Bèze by Tim Atkin

Something is said to be resilient if it maintains its form and structure under pressure. In the context of Burgundy, form and structure translate as character and hierarchy. Thus, Pinot Noir, whose delicacy was once said to mirror Burgundy’s restricted rations of light and warmth is now, based on the evidence of prices and reviews, proving itself resilient in the face of runaway climate change. Despite a 1.5 Celsius increase in growing season temperature, Chambertin hasn’t been deposed by the cooler Hautes Côtes, and ‘Chambolle’ is still a watchword for delicacy among Pinot-philes. READ MORE…

Wine Curmudgeon: The WC Wine Business Index: Four more signs the wine glut is upon us

The grape glut means there’s lots of cheap wine on the market, from Aldi to Costco to Albertson’s

How do we know the wine glut is upon us? Because the Wine Curmudgeon’s Wine Business Index tells us so. How about $2 wine in many of Albertson’s California stores? An Aldi chardonnay where the bottle probably cost more than the wine inside it? Or a constant flow of samples this fall of cheap wine that I’ve near heard of before?

In other words, there are lots and lots of grapes in California, and neither the Trump tariff or increased on-line sales have done anything to fix it. READ MORE…

Tablas Creek Blog: How to reopen tasting rooms indoors (more) safely… and why we won’t be, at least at first

Since we reopened our tasting room in June, we’ve been operating outside only. Why? It’s much, much safer. Even though in June we could have chosen to open indoors, we decided outdoors was the only way that we were comfortable. The state of California, a month later, made the same determination, and has required outdoor-only operation for winery tasting rooms ever since.

Fast forward five months. California’s reopening plan has evolved as more science became available, eventually settling where it is now, with four different color-coded stages measuring county-level Covid risk, from yellow (minimal) through orange (moderate) and red (substantial) to purple (widespread). Since the plan was released, all the wine country counties have been in purple or red, both of which limit winery tasting rooms to outside operation only. But with San Luis Obispo County approaching the threshold of orange (moderate) Covid risk, and Napa and Marin counties already there, we’re again in a period where wineries will have the option of choosing to offer indoor tastings. But should we? I am skeptical. READ MORE…

Jancis Robinson: An investor’s tale

We are not great fans of buying wine for investment but the story of Ian Mill QC, about whom we wrote in The collecting instinct, may tempt you.

Ian Mill

My story with wine began in February 1985 at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, a two-Michelin-starred restaurant near Oxford. The bottle chosen that day by my much more knowledgeable companion was a grand cru white burgundy from the great 1982 vintage, Domaine Leflaive’s Bâtard-Montrachet. The experience, from first smelling and tasting it through to the last sip, was revelatory, extraordinary. As the meal wore on, a realisation dawned and took shape, that my life was taking a new and exciting turn. When I walked into that restaurant, wine was just wine and the anticipation lay in the quality of Raymond Blanc’s cuisine. When I emerged, there was an absolute determination to find other such bottles and to drink them. This proved to be the start of what has been a fabulous 35-year journey (so far), driven by an unwavering passion for drinking and, ultimately, collecting great wines, from Burgundy and elsewhere. READ MORE…

BriscoeBites officially accepts samples as well as conducts on-site and online interviews. Want to have your wine, winery or tasting room featured? Please visit the Sample Policy page where you can contact me directly. Cheers!

Educational posts are in no way intended as official WSET study materials. I am not an official WSET educator nor do I work for a WSET Approved Program Provider. Study at your own risk. Read the full disclaimer.
**Please note: all reviews and opinions are my own and are not associated with any of my places of business. I will always state when a wine has been sent as a sample for review. Sending samples for review on my personal website in no way guarantees coverage in any other media outlet I may be currently associated with.**

Leave a Reply