John Szabo was the first Canadian to add the “MS” after his name in 2004, and he holds the international Wine & Spirits Education Trust Diploma with honors, as well as the Canadian Sommelier Guild diploma. He’s principal critic for, Canada’s premiere wine resource, and co-host and producer of the podcast Wine Thieves with a global following in the trade. He contributes frequently to many international trade and consumer publications.


Books by John include Pairing Food & Wine for Dummies, and the critically acclaimed Volcanic Wines: Salt Grit and Power. On the same theme, he’s also co-founder of Volcanic Wines International, an annual conference in New York City dedicated to celebrating wines grown on volcanic soils worldwide. He’s currently co-writing on a book on wine chemistry.


On the consulting side, John builds wine programs across Canada, and is currently sourcing wines for Accor/Fairmont/Sofitel Hotels in Québec. He has hosted exclusive events and provided expertise for countless financial institutions, law firms and corporations over the years.


Over his nearly quarter of a century in the wine business, John has travelled to virtually every wine producing country on earth in pursuit of fine wine and fascinating stories, many several times When he’s not travelling, tasting or writing, you’ll find him tending to his own regenerative organic field blend vineyard and orchard in Prince Edward County, Ontario, where theory becomes practice.


Where are you working currently and how has being a MS supported you in your current role?

Becoming an MS provided instant credibility in the field, even from those who had never heard of the Court of Master Sommeliers. Many opportunities arose that would not likely have otherwise.


Where were you working when you passed?

When I passed in November 2004, I had already (more or less) left the restaurant business and the wine importing agency I had been working with prior, and was consulting with a French-Hungarian wine group and running a wine school, the Center For Vines Affairs, in Toronto. I was also running trade education seminars for the Wine Council of Ontario in restaurants across the province, and had just started my writing career as well. Our daughter was born in July of the same year. It was a busy time.


What made you want to become an MS?

It was a tall peak to climb in a world that fascinated me. It was a genuine joy and satisfaction to do the work to get there.


What advice do you give those who are pursuing certification?

Be sure it’s the peak you want to climb, and if yes, enjoy the hike.


What is your desert island wine, or what wines/beverages are you currently excited about?

My evidence is only anecdotal, and personal, but I enjoy drinking white wines much more than reds these days – seems to be a common evolution of taste for people in the trade. Or perhaps it’s just my friends. And in that world of whites there are countless wines I turn to, mostly fresh and high acid, low/no oak and lower alcohol. Maybe it’s my Hungarian background, but I’m drawn to dry Furmint. There’s also a world of other volcanic whites to choose from. But my desert island wine will surely be the wine I make with my own hands from my white field blend vineyard in Prince Edward County when it finally matures, because I’ll likely be broke and banished to a desert by then, and it’ll be all I have. I hope it’s decent.