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The Master and The Freak

Masters of Wine, known as MWs for short, are people who have studied and mastered a program as rigorous as any post-graduate doctorate?surgeons have it easier! There are only a few dozen MWs in the world; set an unmarked glass of wine in front of a Master and he will “nose it out,” place its origin on a certain bank of a certain river in a matter of moments. MWs are wine industry professionals whose breadth and depth of knowledge is astounding.

Then there are the other guys, the ones who do follow the Master’s path without the benefit of compensation, and are essentially ranked amateurs. These Freaks are so wrapped up in their obsession; in the sports-analogy minutia of wine, the fluctuations in price of every wine on the market, knowing which wines are being released when, that you can’t imagine they have time in their busy tasting schedule for other things—like a life. They seem to have already tasted everything and to have an unshakeable opinion about all of it. Their postings on are the subject of table talk at dinners. Knowing a Freak is like having a source inside the locker room when you’re trying to get a line on a game. They know all the little things, and never forget a detail, no matter how insignificant; they’re dialed in. They can bore you to tears with weather reports from twenty years past and the nuances of malolactic fermentation. It can be like sitting with a boxing writer—you’d better really want to talk about the sweet science, or get another seat at the table.