There are only 322 Masters of Wine (MWs) in the world; a very select group of wine experts, we work closely with a few who help us find our favourite wines and some hidden gems. But what exactly is a Master of Wine, and why so few?
The notoriously rigorous Master of Wine exams, first set in 1953, are held once a year in the UK, US and Australia.
Wine tasting skills are tested in three 2-hour papers in which we assess, describe and identify a total of 36 ‘blind’ wines that can come from anywhere in the wine-growing world. Commercial and technical expertise is tested in five 3-hour ‘Theory’ exams.
Once through the first 2 elements, one then faces a 10,000 word dissertation on an original piece of wine-related research, before being admitted to the Institute of Masters of Wine.
The road to the exam is a minimum two-year journey of guided self study. It normally takes much longer, the record so far being 17 years!
Students are supported by course days, an annual residential study week and, less officially (but just as powerfully), by each other. Education is led by Masters of Wine who trod the road before, and fellow students are passionate wine professionals from all over the world.
It is this diverse network and very personal exchange of knowledge that makes the Master of Wine such a rewarding journey, and a great widener of perspective. ‘Students’ are of course people in the wine trade who are also juggling professional and private lives.
The potential reward in professional terms is always clear, but the personal cost can sometimes be too much and, sadly, the majority give up before making the final hurdle.
Drive, academic rigour and practical experience of all aspects of the wine trade are essential to becoming a Master of Wine. But more important still is the passion for sharing the joys of a drink that for centuries has been both a means and a symbol of happiness, togetherness and identity.