During our afternoon with Annette Scarfe, she introduced us to ICON Wines from Estates & Wines, the wine division of Moët Hennessy, and how to appreciate the diversity of the wines when we pair them with Asian food. Her knowledge and passion truly shone as she highlighted the quality of grapes and tasting notes in each wine, and how it matched the exquisite food prepared by Executive Chef Koji Tamaru of Kampachi.
In order to achieve her dreams, Annette Scarfe left her job as an Investment Banker in pursuit of her Master of Wine (MW), the highest accolade available in the world of wine. After obtaining her MW in 2012, she now holds a successful career in the world of wine, consulting for international restaurants, educating fellow wine enthusiasts, and is part of the Estates & Wines team.
Can you tell us why you decided to become a Master of Wine?
When I left banking, I wanted to pursue something that I'm really interested as my next career, or more of a vocation, probably. But I knew that I had to get some qualifications to get there. So, I was doing my WSET Level 3 and my diploma. And when I was doing my diploma, I met these rare people of which there were 270 in the world before me and I thought they were special. But it didn't look like it was an unachievable special and it was just something that I have always been very driven to do. If I follow something and I follow it with passion, I want to do the very best that I can do. It's the highest accolade in the world of wine and once I started my career in wine, there's no other target to aim for than the MW.
What does it feel like to be one of the four Masters of Wine in Asia?
It's very exciting and I think the thing that's nice for me is that I've lived in Asia for 19 years. So, I'm genuinely in Asia because I love Asia and that's where I live. I'm not in Asia to be one of the four Masters of Wine in Asia and try and make it commercial. I think there's a big difference in that because it's my home and it makes me very proud and it makes me feel very connected. I feel very special but I've worked very hard for it as well and it's great.
The most difficult of being a Master of Wine is that you get so many opportunities to do fantastic things.
What is the most difficult thing about being a Master of Wine?
The most difficult of being a Master of Wine is that you get so many opportunities to do fantastic things. And also, I'm very active in the institute. I mentor a lot of students, who want to be Masters of Wine and they are very demanding of my time as well. So, the most difficult thing is really finding the balance between working on paid opportunities, working on unpaid stuff, helping my students, and also getting a little bit of time off just to relax and not travel. I travel extensively and sometimes what happens is, I get invited to an event for a talk and I agree and then I look at my calendar later on and realize that I'm going to be in Taiwan this week, and then in London on the next week and then back in New York a week later, which is really what's happened to me this last month. So, it's really managing the calendar but it's not a bad problem - it's a good problem to have, being too busy.
What advise would you give to those who would like to pursue a Master of Wine?
You've got to really, really want it because it is the most exhilarating and exciting journey you will ever go on but the most humbling and humiliating experience you will ever go on. You've got to commit everything to it; you need a real family and support network. You can't do it on your own - it is absolutely impossible to do it on your own. Don't try to do things on your own; don't try to be precious about your own study. Get the support of your family and friends and be really committed and be willing to dedicate your whole life to MW and that's really what you have to do. It's a long process and it's a very demanding process.
What is your wine philosophy when you choose a wine?
It really depends what I'm choosing it for. I do honestly think about the people I'm with a lot as well and what they will like. I want them to enjoy the wine as much as I enjoy the wine. But I like introducing people to new styles. I think if there's any philosophy, what I really like is for it to have a nice story behind the wine but really it's more what I fancy at the time, who I'm drinking with, and what will bring the most enjoyment to the occasion.
Quality wine doesn't have to be expensive wine.
Could you share with our readers how to distinguish quality wine?
Quality wine doesn't have to be expensive wine. The real thing about quality wine is that when you smell or taste wine, you're looking for everything in balance. When I say everything is in balance, that means the acidity - if it's a red wine, the tannins - the alcohol, the fruit. You don't want wine where all you can taste is alcohol because if that's what you're looking for, you might as well have a spirit and not add a mixer to it. If all you want is a fiery feeling, then why not just have a swig of a spirit or something. You want to have some fruit there, you want to have some alcohol there, and you want to have some acidity because it makes it nice and fresh. But it's really just a wine where everything is in balance.
What makes an ICON wine?
The ICON wines represent the real pinnacle of the expression, but I do think that the Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc should be in here as well as the Te Koko, but that is my own honest opinion. We are the proud privileged owners of 1800 hectors of vineyards and the ICON Wines are ones that really express that expression of wines that we own to the world. We know the land and this is the best expression of the grape that we can get out of those wines.
The ICON Wines consists of Cheval Des Andes 2009, Terrazas Single Vineyard Las Compuertas Malbec 2010, Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, and Cloudy Bay Te Koko 2012.