INTERVIEW WITH A MASTER OF WINE
AN INTERNATIONALLY RENOWNED MASTER OF WINE
Sam Caporn is a freelance wine consultant who became a Master of Wine in 2011, winning the Madame Bollinger Medal for Excellence in Tasting, which is awarded to the candidate who excelled in the rigorous tasting papers. Having travelled the world buying and blending wine for the UK market for a number of years for large commercial companies, she started her own consultancy on becoming a Master of Wine, and a mere couple of months later, a mother. She now consults for one of the country’s largest discount supermarkets, works as a wine judge and hosts corporate and private wine events.
When did you first think, “I want to become a Master of Wine”?
After a few years in the wine trade, I had passed my wine Diploma and landed a job I was just desperate to get – which was as Tastings Co-ordinator for Wine Magazine (RIP). It meant I finally wrote a monthly column, and got to taste a lot of wine with panels of very qualified wine expert, and among them were plenty of Masters of Wine. I realised that I seemed to be scoring the wines pretty much the same, writing similar tasting notes and realised that I had a decent palate. The theory part didn’t worry me (naively) too much at the time but it was a real confidence boost to taste regularly with MoWs with regards to the tasting element. I had also never really met any before and the qualification holds near mythical status but it began to feel like something I could achieve with a lot of hard work, which I wasn’t scared of.
Tell us a little about your background – how did you first become interested in wine?
I was at University and my identical twin sister’s friend asked me to take over the student Wine Society, which I agreed to do with two other friends. I pretty much learnt nothing about wine in that time as it wasn’t really about education but entertainment! But at the end of my three years I had to find a job and given that I was interested in travel and writing, it seemed like a good fit.
What’s the best thing about your job?
Bizarrely, I had my fortune told years ago and the lady said she saw a blackboard (or something like that) in my future! She said many things of course, all of which were b**locks but I always remembered that. So even though I don’t have an actual blackboard, I feel like I have a symbolic one as I really love teaching people about wine, chatting to them and helping them to understand what they like and why – as that is all that actually matters when it comes to wine and wine appreciation. People can then take that knowledge and apply it to their lives so it’s practical and helpful.
I had my fortune told years ago and the lady said she saw a blackboard in my future! Even though I don’t have an actual blackboard, I feel like I have a symbolic one as I really love teaching people about wine, and helping them to understand what they like and why.
What wine do you think people should appreciate but don’t?
This is an interesting question as I really believe that people have very different palates; a different number of taste buds for example and some individuals can’t taste certain compounds that others can. So for me, as a wine expert I feel that I should love dry sherry and the Nebbiolo grape – both of which are widely adored by experts. But you know what? Not for me, thanks! I think I’m verging on being a super taster (it doesn’t actually mean you are an excellent taster but have more taste buds than most people so sensitive to bitterness like high acidity and tannin) and I don’t appreciate the acidity in either.
My favourite white grape without a doubt though is Chardonnay and that does tend to get a bit of a bad press but produces my favourite wines. So I would say to anyone that with some a range of styles, they really must give it a second chance if they haven’t done recently!
What is your favourite expensive wine, and your favourite affordable wine?
One of the tastiest wines I have ever tried – and it was blind (ie not knowing what the wine was) was on a trip to Bordeaux and was Chateau Ausone. I think I gave it the highest score I have ever given a wine but sadly I have never tasted it again as it is WAY out of my price range. I like wines young, opulent, polished and with fruit and oak – and this ticked all the boxes. But in terms of a favourite wine I would say vintage Champagne; I adore Dom Perignon for a special occasion like an anniversary. My favourite affordable wine (I imagine affordable means something very different to many people though!) would be a Rioja Reserva – you can get some fabulous wines for under £15. Drink less, drink better!
What wine fact can you share with our readers so they can impress their friends?
You don’t really wine taste, you wine smell; if you have a cold you can’t taste anything, so it’s actually the wine aromas going up your olfactory passage to your brain, and its aroma coupled with taste that creates flavour so it really is worth taking a bit of time to smell your wine, give it a gentle swirl to help and really enjoy that part of the ‘tasting’ process. All you can actually taste is bitter, sweet, salty, umami and so on.
If you were hosting a dinner party, who would you invite (from anytime, anywhere)?
Less is more – I don’t think you can chat if you have too many people, but I do like the company of women (though am keen on that of my husband and son too!) and am a real girls girl so I am going for Kate Moss (I bet she’s got some stories), the Queen, Michelle Obama, Jane Austen, my Granny and me – so a neat 6.
What is your wine guilty pleasure?
I have to say I am a huge advocate of just drinking what you enjoy, whatever that is. I hosted a dinner in Mayfair once and the lady next to me was so mortified to be sitting next to the expert as she only liked Pinot Grigio and drank it with everything from light fish to steak. That was so awful to me – the fact she felt she had to apologise for her personal taste preference, not her liking for Pinot Grigio! So I think there is no such thing as a wine guilty pleasure! Sorry if that’s a bit worthy but just drink what you like whatever that is!
I think there is no such thing as a wine guilty pleasure! Sorry if that’s a bit worthy but just drink what you like, whatever that is!
MEET SAM AT OUR NEXT EVENT
Now that you know a little more about Sam, you’ll be happy to find out that she’s hosting some of our first new and exclusive CWO : DIGITAL events! You can get in on her vast wine knowledge, as well as industry-leading business discussions, by signing up to our new B2B virtual tasting experience here.