I just got back from the Masters of Wine seminars in England. Many candidates refer to it as MW Bootcamp. This is due to the fact that you are taking mock exams and seminars from early in the morning until late at night. It is emotionally, mentally and physically challenging. We spent a day at Plumpton College having hands on training with the following subjects: wine analysis (wine pH and wine acids), soil analyses (soil structural and drainage), filtration, sensory tasting (wine residual sugar and acids) and winter pruning. This was followed by a four day stay at the fabulous Odney Club in Cookham. It was an intense barrage of seminars such as latest wine research by The Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI), commercial implications of Port, tasting the wide diversity of Spain, and so many other amazing wine trade seminars/workshops by experts in the field.
And as wonderful as all the aforementioned experiences were… the real purpose of the seminars is to help one to realize what they need to personally work on to pass the MW exams in June.
What does the MW exam entail?
The exam consists of 13 essays and 3 tasting papers (36 wines in total) over four days. Essentially you could be asked about anything regarding viticulture, vinification, quality control/packaging, business and current topics in the wine world. The tasting may have classic wines from European regions, trendy wines such as Moscato or off-dry red blends or esoteric wines such as a Georgian orange wine.
I have been in the program long enough where I have collected an insane amount of information about many different aspects of wine and have done more blind tastings than I can count. And I keep asking myself the same question:
What am I missing?
One of the biggest complaints I have heard from other students, as well as myself at times, is you feel as if you are given conflicting advice. For example in regards to the essays at one moment you may receive the feedback that your essay was too narrow in focus, and the next essay receives the feedback that it is too broadly focused. The same can be said for the tasting, some feedback may say you weren’t confident with a wine and other feedback may say you come off too arrogant.
Through time I have started to understand that this feedback is not conflicting. It is a reflection that this program is about showing expertise and a wealth of experience with the world of wine. There is no formula and bag of tricks that will help you to show real expertise, even though some may say otherwise. It is about being agile, accessing if the question you see is a question that calls for a broad answer, or perhaps they are asking something specific, then one shows their expertise by saying what is relevant and leaving out what is not. Also, truly tasting a wine is not so much trying to guess what it is (unless it is a classic then you can not miss it)…. but more, what is in the glass… because sometimes they give you wines that they never expect you to guess, and that is because they just want to see if you can taste and communicate what you taste.
Yes, and that’s another thing. Many MWs say this is an exam about communication. If we can not communicate our ideas and tasting abilities on paper then how can we call ourselves Masters of Wine, which include some of the greatest communicators in the world of wine.
And showing the ability to communicate to a global audience…. not to only other Americans or other New Yorkers to use my own personal example.
It seems easy right…. just be in the moment, trust that it is all there and don’t try to plan or guess what the examiners will give you or not give you. But not so easy… as we are human, conscious beings and hence we can be our worse enemies in trying to reach our full potential.
Well, I am back home in New York City.. back to my studies, and everyday I am trying to reinforce that I am enough… like when Luke Skywalker was trying to launch proton torpedoes into a two-meter-wide thermal exhaust port on the Death Star, he was having issues using the computer that was assisting him to lock on the target. Then he hears Obi Wan Kenobi in his head saying, “Use the Force.” He decides to do it on his own without any computer assistance, and he hits his target and blows up the Death Star.
When I sit down for the exams in June I want to have the courage to trust myself, to know I am enough to pass the exams and that the force is with me… always 🙂