Category Archives: Master Of Wine Studies

Countdown to the MW Exam. 

My journey to the MW exam is almost complete for this year. The exam is the second week in June and I traditionally stop studying about a month before. Why? Because you don’t cram for this exam. It’s not about just memorizing facts. It’s about being relaxed and showing that you have the mastery of the subject to prove that you are an MW. I’ve taken a much more relaxed approach this year. I haven’t gone crazy with essays. I’ve done a few mind maps a week on past questions. I’ve done a few really intensive tasting events of full mock exams between weeks of tasting classics with dinner. My last one before the exam will be next week with my mentor and a few other students in Louisiana. After that I’ll have about one more good week and then I’m going to let it lie and the chips will fall where they may come exam time. I’m going to enjoy the Spring in NY, time with my family, and our upcoming vacation purposely scheduled two weeks before the exam. I’m flying out to California the week after the Louisiana trip to visit Yosemite for our annual company Technical conference. It will be nice to see the Redwoods again and do some hiking before it starts in earnest. 

My biggest problem in the past with the exam is that I always tended to overthink my answers. In hindsight, I probably over thought my studies as well. This year I’ve been more relaxed about it all. I’m always a bit afraid that I’ll be in the thick of the exam and momentarily regret that I didn’t go back and review something critical however I’m working harder at trusting myself and the vast amount of knowledge I’ve collected over the years.  So far, I haven’t developed the eye twitches that plagued my 2nd-4th attempts. I think that is a good sign in and of itself. 

So here I am, down to the final weeks.  I plan on reviewing my examples, updating my business stats, and enjoying the preparations that go along with calmly closing the books. Right now I can picture myself walking into the room in June feeling ready and excited to take on the exam. There is not much else to do but enjoy the moments of possibilities prior to turning in the last paper on June 10th. 

Dispelling the Top 3 Myths Surrounding the Wine Market in China

Over the course of my international wine business studies through the MW program and my general work experience, many generalizations about China were discussed.  During the past week, I really dove into the mainland Chinese wine market to understand what is happening there and to see if the generalizations are true or false.

  
Myth #1 – Chinese wine drinkers only drink red wines because red is lucky.

This is completely untrue.  In fact, in one of the stores I went into called Cheers, one of their top sellers was a South African Chardonnay!  It seems the wine market for mainland China are equal opportunity drinkers for both white and red.  Rose is still lagging here however.

  
Myth #2 – Chinese wine buyers will only buy wine if the label is red, has a dragon, or gold coloring.

You see these types of labels gracing the aisles of the general supermarkets.  However, when you go to Ningxia wineries who are designing their own labels, they tend to be brightly colored, depicting many types of subjects including, flowers, birds, phoenix, dragons, and people.  Very few are solid red unless they are imports.

  
Myth #3 – Chinese only drink very expensive or very cheap wines.

It seems the sweet spot for the everyday drinker is between 50 – 100 rmb.  These are not cheap wines but equate to around $8-15 per 750 mL bottle.  Since the austerity measures were inacted in 2013, sales of very high end wines (above 150rmb) have been tough however there are still some of that price point moving.  Below 50 rmb is difficult as well because wines of these price points are now competing with ready to drink beverages, baiju, and cocktails which are typically seen as “cooler” among the younger drinkers that gravitate towards this price category.

There you go!  The top three myths of the Chinese wine market dispelled.

 

 

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Of What are MW Students Afraid? Or Why I’m Out of Reasons to be Afraid.

This week marks the beginning of my 7th MW seminar.  This blog will be 6 years old in March so I have managed to chronicle most of my triumphs and despairs on it.  When one come into the program as a “first year” (yes it’s very Hogwarts-esque) there are lots of feelings one has to deal with.  The excitement of being in the program and on my way to becoming an MW is what I remember most from my first year.  That first seminar was an eye opener.  It was so amazing to be in the same room with so many people as passionate about wine as I was.  I also remember getting half way through the seminar and finding one of my fellow First Years in the hallway, freaking out because he had not realized how much effort it was going to take to prep for the exam.  “I’m 40 years old,” he said. “I don’t have time to do all this.” Which brings me to fear #1.

How do I find time to do all of this?

Like Nike always says, JUST DO IT. You make time.  If it is important enough in your life, you make time for it.  I’ve been up until midnight working on assignments, I’ve read wine books on airplanes, and I’ve gotten up at 5 in the morning to work on notes. I’ve fallen asleep on my practical notebook and woken up with three ring binder imprints in my cheek.  No one said this is easy and no one is forcing anyone to do it.  Just make it a priority if it’s that important.  If it’s not that important, save your money and don’t put yourself through this.

What if I fail my first year assessment so badly that they kick me out?

Every successful MW student comes to the end of their first year with this fear. If one doesn’t have this fear then one is either are a freaking genius with nothing else going on or so egotistical that one doesn’t realize that they don’t know everything.  I’ve seen more of the latter than the former.  The vast majority fall into the camp somewhere in between that they have at least pondered this fear at one point or another.  The first year assessment is the last gas station on a long road through the desert and those that have done the prep are usually fine. On rare occasions, students will be asked to repeat the first year or move to the second year without sitting the exam at the end but most are just fine. You stop in, fill up, get supplies and then set off into the “Second Year.”

What if they figure out I don’t know everything?

At some point in the journey to the MW, you begin to feel like a little bit of a fraud. It seems so many people around you have it all figured out and you are just waiting for someone to point out that you really are dumb at something and shouldn’t be here.  I’ve heard this come out of the mouths of MW’s who have passed it all and are still wondering how it happened (I won’t mention names of course).  What you eventually come to realize is that it is impossible to know everything and each student has their strengths and weaknesses.  The key is to find students that have your weaknesses as strengths and hang out with them.  Pick their brains, don’t be afraid to ask dumb questions, and learn all you can from them.  I have always found that my fellow students were some of the best resources for knowledge and the seminar gives you a week to befriend as many as possible to share knowledge with.  They are in the same boat so they understand the detail which you need to glean.  People who are not in the program are helpful but generally not as helpful as students who are walking in the same trench you are.

What if I fail the exam?

At the end of your second year it is time to sit the exam. Nowadays, students only have the option of putting this off a year if they don’t feel ready but must sit during their second “second year”.  Back in the day, when I started this trek, you could wait almost indefinitely to sit the exam which resulted in many students that didn’t feel ready, not sitting for years.  The second year is the doldrums.  It is truly the most depressing part of the program.  The more “second years” you go through the more depressing it is.  I’ve heard many a student say “But what if I fail? I’ve used up one of my three chances to pass!”  So what?  You’ve failed.  You have more chances and are the wiser for trying it.  The only way to become an MW is to pass the exam and the only way to pass the exam is to sit the exam.  If you fail, you have lost nothing and have probably gained valuable experience and knowledge along the way (if you have properly prepped for the exam, which if you haven’t please see my final sentence under fear #1).  Trust me, as someone who has failed the exam 5 times in some way, shape, or form at this point, failing the exam is not as bad as everyone assumes it is.  Take time to grieve, decide if you want to continue, then if so, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, make a plan, and go again.

What if I fail so often, they kick me out?

There are two points that this fear comes into play. The first is on your third attempt if you haven’t passed either the practical or the theory by then.  The second is on your fifth attempt if you have passed either by your third attempt. If a student is worried about this prior to either of these moments please re-read the paragraph above.  Again, so what?  It’s an opportunity to remember what life was like before the MW.  It’s time to reevaluate and decide if this is something that is truly worth it.  After my 5th fail, I had decided that I needed to hang it up.  I was ready to do that.  I found other things in my life that were just as important to start working on.  After about a month, I was already missing the camaraderie of the program and (strangely enough) I was missing having something to occupy every spare minute of every day.  There was a hole in my life that could only be filled by being involved with this organization, which brings me to the following fear…

What if people think I’m crazy? Heck, I think I’m crazy!

Honestly this doesn’t matter. All that matters is that my family is supportive and I have the passion and the drive to keep going regardless of the odds and regardless of the obstacles in my path.  At some point, probably soon, I’m going to run out of money to keep going at which case I’ll probably take some additional time off and then get back at it however. Having decided that at some point in my life I will be an MW, nothing is going to stop me because I’m not afraid anymore. Well, maybe I’m afraid of one thing.

What if I take the most times to pass the exam that ANYONE has ever taken?

Honestly, I probably won’t care because I’ll still have the initials and the camaraderie of the group and I’ll have looked at the exam forwards, backwards, and sideways to the point that I breathe it and what future MW student could ask for a better mentor than that?

So here we go, attempt number 6! Bring it!