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Published:  23 July, 2008

By David Williams

The Institute of Masters of Wine (IMW) entered into battle with an unlikely foe this week, after the feminist polemicist Germaine Greer accused the body of promoting undrinkable' wines and advocating industrial' winemaking techniques. The Greer attack appeared in her weekly gardening column in The Daily Telegraph, and was inspired by a letter written to her by an unnamed Master of Wine (MW). According to Greer, the MW's letter had berated' her for not deploring the growing of wines in the irrigated terrains impropres of the Languedoc', and had praised the introduction of higher-yielding varieties and clones' and industrial fermentation techniques' into the region. Greer's response was to praise the stuff the peasants racked off into demijohns and sealed with a layer of olive oil' - wine made of trampled grapes and nothing else bar the wild yeasts that grew on their skins'. She contrasted this with the clean' wines advocated, according to Greer, by the IMW, and concluded her article by asking: So who are these Masters of Wine? Not wine growers, not winemakers, but a group of British wine merchants who set themselves up in 1955 to inform and influence British taste. Next time you pay over the odds for a glass of undrinkable wine in an English bar, blame them.' Responding to the criticisms in a letter to the editor of The Daily Telegraph, IMW executive Siobhan Turner pointed out that many MWs and MW students were neither British nor wine merchants, and that the IMW membership contained winemakers, journalists, authors and wine educators from all over the world.