This week we are thrilled to be joined by Sam Caporn, one of only 149 qualified female Masters of Wine in the world. We recently met Sam at a charity wine tasting event and have been obsessed with her ever since. Not only is she hilarious, but she is also super smart, having bagged the Madame Bollinger Medal for Excellence in Tasting, which has only ever been awarded to 16 women in its 30-year history. Sam certainly knows how to slurp her wine and has brilliantly devised a ‘Wine Flavour Tree’ which makes tasting much more accessible for those novices amongst us.
Fresh from tasting up to 400 wines a day at the IWC awards, we chat to Sam about what is involved in becoming a Master of Wine, and what wine she likes to drink in her down time.
Follow Sam on Instagram @themistressofwine and visit her website: www.themistressofwine.com

1. What makes a good wine taster, are there any tips?

 I think there are a few things and one is obviously that the more you try and the harder you work, the better you get but I think there is a natural ability issue there too. When it comes to blind tasting then memory also comes into play - you need to file those smells and tastes away in your memory bank and then be able to pull them out and access them/recognise them when you need to. Listening, learning and loving what you do also helps!

2. What is involved in getting ‘A Master of Wine’ qualification?

 So the main part of the qualification is passing some fairly rigorous exams after 2 years of study, although prior to this you should hold the WSET Level 4 Diploma. The exams are made up of theory papers and also practical papers of which there are 3 and in each paper there are 12 wines that you have to blind taste. There is a white wine paper, a red and a mixed paper too which could include sparkling wine, fortified, sweet and even pink for the first time the year I sat it! Once you have got through all of that, there is now the Research Paper - or what was the dreaded Dissertation when I was studying which was a 10,000 paper on a topic of your choice.

3. Tell us about your brilliant wine tree?

I created The Wine Flavour Tree because to my mind, the main reason that wine tastes the way that it does is due to the grape variety that that specific wine is made from. There is a commonality of flavours across different grape varieties and so I grouped four of them by 'branches' on a Tree so that if you like fresh and zesty citrus flavours for example, look at that branch and it will give you four examples of flavours (eg grapefruit, tangerine, lemon and lime) and four examples of grape varieties. In total there are 40 varieties shown on the Tree - 20 white and 20 red with five branches on each side. It was designed to help consumers identify flavours in wine and also to help with selecting wines.

4. You recently spent two weeks judging the IWC awards, tasting hundreds of wines each day. Are there any new regions that surprised you?

 It was great trying lots of different wines! I'd say Japan was a surprise (Koshu and Chardonnay mainly) and it's always fun trying wines from  Brazil, Mexico and anywhere that you don't usually get the opportunity to! Cabernet Sauvignon from China is also getting pretty good.

5. What is your go to wine for a cosy night in?

 So to me a cosy wine means something with no hard edges, a light smattering of oak and that is medium-bodied so for white, that generally tends to be a Chardonnay (usually something from the New World like South Africa) and for red I would say Rioja or a Syrah - northern Rhone or an elegant New World example. I'm not a huge fan of really high acid or grippy tannins or bitterness anyway!

6. What wines do you serve when you have friends coming over?

 It very much depends on the time of the year but it will inevitably start with fizz (usually Champagne or an English sparkling wine) and then pink if it is the summer or red. If girlfriends only it may never move on from bubbles. The wine itself changes depending on what I've come across, tasted, tried or seen on promotion - who doesn't love a bargain. I pretty much never serve sweet or fortifieds wines but tend to select user friendly wines that aren't too challenging and that I think my friends will like.

7. Do you travel a lot with your work and which wine producing region would you most like to visit?

 I used to travel a lot with work when I was a wine buyer but rarely travel now which is both a blessing and a curse but my top 2 areas to visit are the Northern Rhone and Piedmont - the first for the wines, the second for the food. Nebbiolo and I aren't great friends.

8. What would be your last meal and bottle to accompany it?

We play the Death Row Dish at home and I haven't quite landed on the same meal every time but given my love of expensive vintage Champagne and especially Blanc de Blancs (such as Ruinart, Taittinger Comtes de Champagne, DP or Rare) then lobster spaghetti or seafood of some description and if there was some sort of way of squeezing truffles in there too that would be nice! Again, it would depend on mood etc as some days the fresher lobster spaghetti would appeal and others a richer truffled risotto! YUM.


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