As the wine industry has become truly global, the need for experts to guide consumers has grown, too. There are many certification and college degree programs, many of which are very good. One program, the Masters of Wine is unquestionably demanding — much like an advanced college degree, right up to a dissertation-like research paper. Now, 19 new wine professionals have achieved the “MW” certification, bringing the total number of Masters of Wine to 340 worldwide.
Only one of the 19 is from the United States: New Yorker Mollie Battenhouse, who earned fame as head sommelier at Tribeca Grill and has become one of the best known wine educators in the region. In addition to frequent teaching, judging and guest sommelier engagements, Battenhouse is a sales executive for VOS Selections, a wine importer. Her dissertation topic for the MW was “Attitudes of the NYC Wine Trade Towards Finger Lakes Cabernet Franc.”
The others are from around the world, including two from Canada, one from Japan, one from Singapore, and three from Germany. MWs now hail from 24 countries.
“The general standard of the research papers was considerably higher than equivalent papers submitted in previous years,” said John Hoskins MW, Chief Examiner of the Institute of the Masters of Wine, in a news release. “We now have a strong pool of MWs with the experience to give students the guidance they need to tackle this last part of the exam, which for many had in the past proved to be the most frustrating.”
While it’s always good to be wary of public education campaigns driven by commercial interests, a new effort by the food industry to communicate about preventing food borne illness by improving home food safety has a few worthy elements. The new “Mythbusters” campaign aims to increase safe food handling in homes, which are the source for about 9% of food-related sickness in the United States each year. Commercial or restaurant kitchens are the source for most food borne disease, accounting for about seven times more cases than private kitchens.
The skeptic in me questions why backers like Foster Farms, Cargill, and the trade associations representing manufacturers of most of the food items that wind up in grocery stores and commercial kitchens, want to shine the light on home kitchens more than safety improvements in industrial food processing. To be fair, the large companies do pay attention to food safety, and I am unlikely to ever be completely comfortable eating factory-farmed, processed products. If they are doing their part, then asking consumers to be careful with home food safety, too, probably makes sense.
Food prepared in home kitchens accounts for a lot of illness, but it’s a minor factor compared to restaurants or delis where many people can be exposed to contamination. Based on 10 years of data, the CDC estimates that nearly 7 out of every 10 cases of food borne illness are traced to restaurants, 1 out of every 10 to foods prepared in a private home, and the rest are attributed to caterers or institutional kitchens.
The project’s website has fact sheets, videos, and other resources to help families keep their home kitchens and the foods they eat safer. For example, a safe school lunch flyer reminds people to use separate cutting boards for meats and vegetables and use insulated bags, freezer gel packs or a frozen juice box to help keep lunches safe after they go out the door.
The Okanagan Valley of British Columbia has been submerged since Saturday in a brown haze of smoke emanating from massive wildfires just south of the border in Washington state.
Winery owners say this is the worst smoke here since a major wildfire near Kelowna, BC, in 2003. However, they are not yet saying the grapes are in jeopardy. That could change if the smoke conditions continue much beyond two days. At least one winemaker has sent sample grapes for lab work to detect smoke taint.
Adding to the concern is a fire near Oliver, BC, that once again is threatening several wineries. Tinhorn Creek CEO Sandra Oldfield says the same wind that brought smoke north from Washington state turned the Oliver fire back towards her winery, one of several put on evacuation warning by fire officials.
Although the forecast calls for continued smoke conditions, the haze eased sufficiently to allow the Penticton Airport to resume operations, which had been suspended due to low visibility.