%293%left%Lisa Perrotti-Brown '89 may soon become one of the foremost wine experts in the world. Now a wine-purchasing consultant in Tokyo, Perrotti-Brown is studying for her master of wine examination, a grueling four-day marathon of blind taste tests and wine criticism. Test takers are expected not only to name wines by taste alone but must also be able to distinguish a particular wine according to vintage. Examinees must achieve a B or higher on each section of the exam in order to pass. Those who do, and that's only between 5 and 10 percent of test takers, join an elite group of 240 masters of wine worldwide.
Perrotti-Brown's rise to prestige would have made Dickens proud. Orphaned when she was 17, the Detroit (Maine) native remained optimistic and motivated. At the suggestion of one of her high school teachers, she applied to Colby and was accepted with a full scholarship.
At Colby she studied English literature and performing arts. She decided to spend fall semester of her junior year abroad in London, fell in love with the city and elected to stay a second semester. Although her senior year was spent fulfilling credit requirements left incomplete while she was abroad, when the end came "the hardest thing about Colby was leaving it," Perrotti-Brown said.
%294%right%After graduation she headed cross-country to pursue a writing career in Los Angeles but quickly decided she preferred London. Her play, Tucson, about two American hicks corrupted by a television evangelist, received positive reviews and was touted as a "shameless satire of religious exploitation" with "cunning sting in its tail."
Being a struggling playwright wasn't paying the bills, however. Though she was "never one for the Bohemian lifestyle," Perrotti-Brown took a job at a wine bar to supplement her income. Playwriting was put on the back burner as the wine trade became Perrotti-Brown's new focus.
She soon became manager of the wine bar where she had been working part time. After three years there she was offered a position with the prestigious London wine merchant Corney and Barrow. After a brief stint with a commercial wine trader, Perrotti-Brown took a job with Paragon Vintners, which is jointly owned by the famous vintner Baron Philippe de Rothschild.
In November 2002 Perrotti-Brown left London for Tokyo, where her husband, a banker, had been transferred. In Japan she has been teaching a lecture series to aspiring Japanese wine merchants and working as a purchasing consultant for one of Japan's major wine importers. Perrotti-Brown aims to teach her Japanese students to be more self-reliant when choosing wines instead of following the recommendations of others, she said.
During her various pursuits, Perrotti-Brown says, she has always tried to find something she loves doing and then find a way to make money doing it. She loves studying about wine because it quenches her thirst for knowledge. Indeed, so long as vintners keep producing wine, Perrotti-Brown will have new material to learn: "For me studying wine is a physical and cerebral experience. You must know the particulars about each wine, and you must also know how it tastes. Studying wine is like studying a foreign language."
Passing the master of wine examination will be another feather in Perrotti-Brown's cap, but no matter what, she plans to stay in Japan for a while, "trying," she said, "to work up a passion for sakè."
—Jonathan Silberstein-Loeb '03