Here we are again. I am getting ready to sit the Master of Wine examination for the 6th time. It’s interesting because it now seems like just another day in the life of an MW student. I can look back to my first exam and I was so excited and slightly nervous driving to the exam, my thoughts of almost certain passing scores running through my mind with the blind optimism that I had at the time. That was 7 years ago and with each attempt my mindset has changed from excitement to dread and everywhere in between. The positive aspect of having to sit multiple times is there is no longer an uncertainty of what to expect. I have a routine of sorts. Today, my task is to see how long it takes to walk from my friend’s house to the exam site and to procure lunch for the next four days. I usually scope out a place for food and order the same thing for all four days and pay up front with a specific pick up time each day so that I can pack up from the morning exam and calmly walk out of the building to my pre-determined lunch spot, walk in, grab my package and walk calmly out. On these challenging days, it helps to not be panicked about “Where am I going to eat? What am I going to eat? Will it be ready in time? Will I have to wait anywhere?” Any level of stress removal that can be done will be done.
Tomorrow, I’ll get up and try to arrive with plenty of time to the exam site. I hope I can walk with no issues however hauling glasses and my computer up and down the quite steep streets of San Francisco may prove to be too much in the mornings. We’ll see on my explorations today. I know exactly what the room looks like because I’ve been there before just like I knew what to expect when the exam was held at Opus One in Napa. In 2012, when I passed my theory section, the winemaking position had just been posted for Robert Mondavi Winery and there I was sitting in Opus One getting ready for the first day of the exam, 5 months pregnant with Nathaniel doing somersaults in my womb, staring at photographs of Mr. Mondavi and Baron Philippe de Rothschild feeling like fate was laughing at me in some way, daring me to try for more. This time with the exam being held at the Constellation Office in San Francisco, I can’t help but feeling a little bit of the relaxing feeling of playing on your home court even though I’ve never had an office there.
This time I’m sitting the entire exam again; both the tasting and the theory sections. It is a marathon. Four full days of doing nothing but thinking solely about wine and typing for hours on end. I am not the only lunatic in the world doing it either! According to Penny Richards, Executive Director of the Institute of the Masters of Wine, 138 students of the 310 total in the program are sitting this year. It is a record number of people sitting the exam at the three locations around the globe; London, San Francisco, and Sidney.
If you are interested to see what my fellow students and I went through this week, look for the exam details to be released on June 13th, a week from today. I find out results on September 5th which is Labor Day in the US so I’ve decided that must be a good sign that I will already be off of work and celebrating on the day that I get them.
Best of luck to all my fellow exam takers! Here we go again…
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.
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.