INTERVIEW WITH A MASTER OF WINE
ONE OF JUST 418 MASTERS OF WINE IN THE WORLD
Sheri is based in North Carolina and earned the esteemed title Master of Wine in 2003, becoming the youngest American woman to achieve the designation. She is a senior partner at Wine Ring, consults for a number of wine companies, and also judges at wine competitions around the world. In her spare time, she enjoys running, gardening, traveling, cooking and cheering for her beloved Duke Blue Devils.
Tell us a little about your background – how did you first become interested in wine?
I was 16 – about to turn 17 – and had the opportunity to go on a spring break trip to Italy chaperoned by my high school Latin teacher. She told our parents that we would be legal to drink there and if our parents were ok with it and signed permission slips, we would be able to have wine with dinner. Fast forward to the trip and there was wine with dinner each night! (There may also have been wine with lunch a few times, too!) It was cheap table wine – but I still remember (MANY, MANY years later) – how that wine transformed each simple dinner into memorable meals. In fact, I can still picture our group sitting around the table. The wines were different depending on where we were in Italy and I was, in a nutshell, captivated. Wine seemed to have so many unique aspects to it – I like to call it the most interdisciplinary subject of them all – and they were all so fascinating. From that trip on, learning more about wine became an integral part of my life!
When did you first think, “I want to become a Master of Wine”?
When I did my Diploma studies at the International Wine Center, Mary Ewing Mulligan MW, my teacher, was the only resident American female Master of Wine. I found her to be incredibly inspiring and I started to think about how I might go about trying to become the second US-resident female Master of Wine. I am pleased to say that I did end up achieving that goal – and to this day I am still inspired by Mary’s knowledge and expertise.
What’s the best thing about your job?
There is always something new to learn. One of the essays I had to write for my Master of Wine exams was “A bad day tasting wine is better than a good day at work. Discuss.” I think about that phrase almost daily – that even when you don’t like the wines or you aren’t enjoying them, there is still something to be gained through tasting or studying a wine.
You don’t need to be an expert to know that you like something. You can trust your own preferences and have confidence in your choices. If you want to learn more, that’s great – but it is also ok to just enjoy the things that you like. That’s actually the beauty of wine.
What wine do you think people should appreciate but don’t?
That no one knows everything – and so it is ok to not know much about wine and still enjoy it! For many years, I worked on the generic Wines of France campaign in the US. One of our “sayings” was that you don’t have to speak French to drink French. And I believe that goes for all wines. You don’t need to be an expert to know that you like something. You can trust your own preferences and have confidence in your choices. If you want to learn more, that’s great – but it is also ok to just enjoy the things that you like. That’s actually the beauty of wine – there is truly something for everyone, every palate and every budget!
What is your favourite expensive wine, and your favourite affordable wine?
Favourite expensive wine…such a tough question! I love top quality Bordeaux… especially with some age on it. I’m also a huge fan of old school Rioja and the wines from the Piemonte in Italy. But if I have to pick a single bottle, I’d go with the Ridge Monte Bello – classic, elegant and always delicious. In terms of a favourite affordable wine – two that I really enjoy and are great for a wide variety of occasions (and always good to take to a party) are the G.D. Vajra Langhe Rosso and the Roederer Estate Brut.
What wine fact can you share with our readers so they can impress their friends?
It is believed that the oldest vine in North America is a Muscadine grapevine called the MotherVine and it is located on Roanoke Island in Manteo, North Carolina. It is estimated to be over 400 years old and it was likely either planted by Croatan Native Americans or settlers of the Lost Colony.
If you were hosting a dinner party, who would you invite (from anytime, anywhere)?
Wow – this is a tough question! I think I’m going to have to go with Eleanor of Aquitaine, Queen Elizabeth I, Leonardo da Vinci, Dennis Brain, Robin Williams, Mike Krzyzewski, and my grandmother, Reola, who passed away when I was a baby. Not entirely sure what I would serve, but throw in some good food and great wine and this group would definitely make for an interesting evening!
What is your wine guilty pleasure?
Peanut M&Ms and a glass of Madeira.
MEET SHERI AT AN UPCOMING EVENT
Curious to meet and learn more about wine from Sheri and other internationally renowned wine experts? RSVP for one of our upcoming Chief Wine Officer events, where you can join a select group of peers and keynote speakers from your industry for business discussions, networking, and expert-led fine wine tasting. See our events calendar below.