What Happens at TEXSOM does NOT Stay at TEXSOM
Such was the opening decree from Master Sommelier Devon Broglie before the opening tasting session of this year’s TEXSOM conference—a firm but friendly reminder to those in attendance to be aware of their behavior and the increasing scrutiny we are all under.
Co-founded in 2005 by James Tidwell MS CWE and Drew Hendricks MS CWE, TEXSOM has grown from a local event of less than 100 attendees to become a mandatory conference in the calendar for more than 1,200 wine professionals. At TEXSOM, attendees can progress in their educational studies, improve their service standards, hone tasting skills, and stay abreast of trends and developments in the industry.
I have attended numerous conferences and meetings over the last year, and there were 5 notable highlights at TEXSOM:
R-E-S-P-E-C-T - The Work and the Team
Managing a large group of volunteer pouring staff can be a minefield when alcohol and new relationships collide. But under the respected and quietly confident tutelage of Master Sommeliers June Rodil and David Keck, the volunteer brigade executed every tasting with professionalism and quiet deference to the wines, producers, and sessions being presented. Young fresh faces poured alongside established professionals. Watching the teams in action was an encouraging reminder of the talent that surrounds us in this industry.
Tackling the Norm
Not afraid to challenge preconceived notions, sessions such as ”The Value of Non-Vinifera Wines,” “Whose Wine List is it Anyway?” and “Does A Region Need a Signature?” challenged convention, and invited debate and discussion. The well debated topic on the role of acidity in white wine was given a fresh “groovy baby” overhaul in the “Acid Trips,” – a tasting led by Sheri Morano, MW and featuring speakers in 70’s costumes (and thankfully no hairspray.)
Where Great Minds Gather
Successful and visible conferences attract great speakers, but few compare with the roster of esteemed professors, doctors and Masters that led the seminars and panels. Their vast knowledge of the cultural, historical, and technical aspects of wine was evident, and yet the intimate nature of the conference offered informal opportunities for young students to listen, learn, and discuss ideas with these industry leaders.
Women on the Rise – as Speakers, Panelists and Moderators
It seems there has been an intentional move toward equalizing the podium. Of the 43 featured speakers, 18 were women. Female Masters of Wine outnumbered Master Sommeliers 2:1 with English journalist Sarah Jane Evans MW, Sonoma State University Professor Dr Liz Thatch MW, author Kelli White and Australian winemaker Virginia Willcock all holding solo podium spots. While ethnic diversity remains a challenge for this conference and the industry at large, kudos to the organizers for taking steps in the right direction.
The Future Makers
According to WSET Chief Executive Ian Harris MBE, only 1 in 5000 students seeking Master Sommelier or Master of Wine status will ever make it, which demonstrates how incredibly tough the road is for many students aspiring to reach Masters status remains. Students are competing against an increasingly global talent pool for the still-limited career opportunities available in what remains a low-paying, industry still dominated by legacy decision-makers.
Yes, we still have a long way to go to have an industry that is truly diverse, (in terms of age, race and gender) and one that supports the long-term mental, physical, and emotional wellness of all those who commit their careers to wine. But conferences such as TEXSOM are raising the standard, providing a forum to listen, taste, network, and learn from some of the industry’s great minds, setting personal and professional boundaries in the process.
As co-founder Tidwell reminded the audience when announcing the 2018 Best Sommelier Competition winner, the onus is upon everyone to uphold and push the professionalism of the industry forward for the future.
Let’s keep this momentum moving by supporting the community who make gatherings like this possible, and lending our voices and support to the conversation and as always, we welcome your comments and feedback.
Meet The Tribe:
Our community is only as strong as the company we keep, and here we meet some of the folks who make our profession so dynamic.
Kate McIntyre MW,
Master of Wine and Marketing Manager, Moorooduc Estate (Victoria, Australia)
Years In Industry:
My parents purchased our Moorooduc Estate in 1982 but my experience began in 1996 at Philip Murphy - a fine wine retailer in Melbourne . Here I quickly discovered my enjoyment of wine could become a career and life project. I had wanted to perform, write, teach and travel but hadn’t linked all that in with a wine job until meeting some early influential mentors and life friends.
That was the springboard for me to study for my Master of Wine qualification which I passed in 2010, while wine writing and working for Trembath & Taylor Importers. It eventually lead me back to the family business as I came to recognise the quality and individual value of what my parents had done in a world wine context.
Today, I'm part of the winemaking and management team which I love, although working for the family business brings extra stress as much as extra rewards!
My Biggest Challenge To Wellness:
Australia is so far away from everywhere so whenever I travel, the experience of long haul flight and jet lag are a nasty combo especially in my neck and shoulders. Massage therapy helps a lot as does yoga.
Too many wine dinners - too much food and alcohol; not finding time for exercise; airplanes and hotels. I am a hedonist so learning when enough is enough is a long term project for me.
How I Keep It Together To Stay Well:
A glass of water before every glass of wine. Tea instead of wine or coffee. When I am travelling I double the water consumption and try not to eat or drink alcohol on long haul flights just to combat the boredom!
When I don’t get to chose what I eat, don’t eat everything on the plate. Yoga has become my saviour- in the lounge between connections is the best (for me if not the other passengers!) and whenever I can a long, brisk walk in the sun. And big cuddles with my poodles Pedro and Polly whenever possible.
You can connect with me on Instagram and Twitter or visit our family’s winery at Moorooduc Estate.
This Week's Reading
In the spirit of TEXSOM, both stories this week come from talented wine writer Shana Clarke aka "Shana Speaks Wine" who covered pertinent topics on study, wine and wellness!
8 Tips for Creating an Effective Wine Self-Study Practice – SevenFifty Daily
“Whether you’re studying for the MS or the MW exam, both require intense self-discipline and commitment. The amount of information is daunting, but knowing how to tackle it properly can make all the difference.”
“When it comes to alcoholic beverages, does sex still sell? For many brands, the answer is no; sultry and scintillating campaigns are being replaced with sweat sessions (not of the bedroom variety) as brands seek to reach drinkers through wellness activities and campaigns.”
Let's Meet Up!
As work life has it, we are traveling over the next few months and would love to see you. Check out details on the Let's Meet Up! page.
Folio Fine Wine Partners Annual Portfolio Tasting in New York, September 18 (Rebecca)
Business of Wine & Food Tourism Conference in Cape Town, October 17 (Cathy)
Australian Women in Wine Awards in Sydney November 16 (Rebecca)
Wine2Wine in Verona, Italy November 26 and 27 (Rebecca)