Monday, 20 January 2014

Awesommelier: My MW Boot Camp Experience


Today my day began at 8:30 am when I sat down at my desk, turned over an examination paper and started to taste the 12 glasses of wine set up in front of me. This is my 6th day at the Master of Wine Residential camp in Rust, Austria and my 5th tasting paper of the week.

The Master of Wine programme is often described as the hardest professional qualification in the world. Just over 300 qualified Masters of Wine (MWs) exist from all over the world and all sorts of areas of the wine business. The exams are notoriously strenuous, demanding incredibly detailed knowledge of Viticulture, Vinification, Marketing, Legislation, Distribution and every else in between for all wine making countries. Naturally there is also a fair amount of consumption, with 3 tasting papers covering everything from Sauvignon Blanc to Sweeties.

Why am I doing it then? I think I've asked myself that every day that I have been here.

I love wine, I suppose, and I want to have greater knowledge and experience of it. I also work in wine, and know it will be career for the rest of my working life, so it pays to be as qualified as possible. Being an MW is incredibly prestigious given the scarcity of qualified ones and are seen as the absolute authorities on the subject.

It's also a fabulous networking opportunity; I have been taught this week by the head of wine policy for the European Union, a Quality Control expert for a major bulk wine distributor, an incredibly known wine writer amongst a host of the best in the industry. Additionally it gives me an opportunity to bond with my colleagues in the wine trade, as our jobs can often be quite isolated. On the course we have winemakers, journalists, brokers, educators, retailers, sommeliers and then in the corner there is me as a wholesaler feeling utterly overwhelmed.

Lectures have been diverse, we've had market updates from mature and emerging markets, lectures on Quality Control and Assurance (honestly not as dry as any of us were expecting), the views of the business from the Austria Wine Marketing Board and a whole host of amazing wines, naturally.

Tasting wines at 8:30 every morning for 2 hours 15 minutes is important, because your palate is freshest then, though we all balked slightly at the first flight of reds just after breakfast.

It's quite a journey, and in the coming months I will be writing about the process for Vinspire as I make my way through the exams, trips, tastings and experiences of being the run of the MW litter.

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