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Igor Ryjenkov MW: DWWA 2014 judge

Find out more about the world-renowned names that make up the 2014 Decanter World Wine Awards judging line-up in this Q&A series.

Igor Ryjenkov MW is the European wines product manager for Vintages, the premium wine division of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO). Ryjenkov’s interest in wine was sparked by a visit to the Niagara Peninsula in his late 20’s which he followed up by taking WSET courses to diploma level and the MW qualification. In addition to his role at LCBO, Ryjenkov has contributed to a number of wine books and manuals.

Read our interview with Igor Ryjenkov MW below…

☆ Which year or decade do you wish you’d been born in and why?

I’d like to have experienced being a young adult either in the mid-60s in North America, or at the end of 19th century Russia; both were very seminal, transformative, fertile and engaging times.

☆ How old were you when you had your first wine ‘moment’ and what was it?

Mine came late – in my late 20s – and it was not with a wine that rendered me speechless, but rather with a flight of wines from a winery in Niagara that showed me that not all wine tasted the same. There was a time when I thought that it did! My wine journey started from there.

☆ How many bottles do you have in your cellar and what is your most recent addition? 

Because I live in an apartment downtown, my ‘cellar’ is a pretty full 120-bottle wine unit. My most recent additions were three bottles of taut, crisp, 12% abv Muscadet to replace some older vintages of the same wine. 

☆ How many years have you been working in the wine industry and what was your first job?

It’s already been 15 years. My very first – semi-paying – gig was as a salesperson working on commission for one of Ontario’s importing agents. I had to sell wine to restaurants in downtown Toronto and, as I didn’t have a car, I had to cover my ‘territory’ on foot or using public transport. My muscles still shudder at the thought of my samples bag!

☆ Which vintage and region (or wine) do you wish you’d bought a whole case of wine from?

The ‘prudent’ choice would have been a good vintage Lafite or DRC before they became out of the reach of mere mortals. However, since I am in the trade for the experience, and the top wines are expected to impress anyway, my actual answer is some cases of the 2004 1er Cru Beaune from Bouchard Pere & Fils, the 2004 St. Joseph from Jaboulet, and a 1997 Rasteau from a producer whose name I do not recall but would recognise immediately. These are all much less heralded wines that I bought simply to try, but ended up being stunned by the experience they delivered. Their balance, harmony and length defies analysis and were such that something from each of them clearly stayed with me.

☆ In the last 12 months, which grape have you drunk the most of?

Regional Sauvignons and Chenins from the Loire Valley – their fresh, light, pure flavours seem to agree with me.

☆ In the last 12 months, what’s the most exciting region you’ve discovered or re-discovered and why?

I have re-discovered Rueda which, when the winemakers have put thought into their wines, has some amazing wines made with indigenous varieties. I have also re-discovered Tuscany and its incredible Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG wines which have now earned their rightful place as the third part of the Tuscan sangiovese trinity along with Chianti and Brunello. 

☆ Who’s your wine idol (who has inspired you the most in the wine world)?

I admire people who leave the assured comfort of what they do and set out to pursue their vision, their dream, for less than a certain outcome, risking most, if not everything, they have. The wine trade is filled with these type of people, too numerous to mention. 

☆ What’s your most memorable wine and food moment?

I easily have a dozen or so ‘moments’ vying for top spot, but one seems to come up more often than others. I was meeting friends for lunch at a BYOB restaurant in Toronto and one friend generously brought a bottle of 1983 Château Margaux with we enjoyed with some delicious lamb burgers. Everything seemed to line up that day: the wine, the beautiful summer afternoon with sunrays pouring in through the windows, the group – just three of us all having a great day. That is something you cannot plan and it is now a beautiful memory.

☆ If you could taste/drink any wine in the world what would it be and who would you drink it with?

This calls for a two-part approach. The ‘what’ would be a Falernian or another highly respected wine from the Golden Age of Rome to share with someone who knows what a good Falernian should taste like, so a member of the Roman upper class. The ‘who’ would be the cast of characters from Bulgakov’s ‘Master and Margarita’ – Yeshua, Pontius Pilate, and of course Woland’s crew – and I’d drink whatever they were drinking, probably something contemporary.

☆ What do you enjoy most about judging at the Decanter World Wine Awards?

I enjoy being part of the team of key industry experts working together to uncover and give recognition to the good, the better and the best of what the wine world has to offer. 

Written by Decanter

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