The Master of Wine Exam…A Two Week Retrospective

Two weeks ago at this point I had finished the second day of the four day long MW exam.  Now after that time has passed, I’ve had time to chew over my answers in my head, wake up in the middle of the night remembering some small detail that I can’t remember if I mentioned, and mentally rehash my wine placements.  It really is three months of waiting from the last day of the exam to that day in September where you discover if you’ve shown the examiners that you are an MW or not.  This year the last day of the exam was made all the more interesting by an article written by  Funny enough, the title of the article sounded like a perfect Paper 4 (Contemporary Issues) question to me; The Master of Wine Exam: Is the reputed “hardest test of knowledge” in the wine world worth taking?


My answer would be absolutely a resounding YES for those people who want one!  That is my opinion but I’ll be the first to admit it is not the best course of action for everyone.  I live my life on the assumption that learning anything above what one already knows would be beneficial and I’ve always been one to go after new challenges. However if one is the type of person to be satisfied with their current accomplishments, I can understand why they wouldn’t want to go through the trouble.  Mr. Steinberger points out in his article that the program is expensive, the exam is grueling, and there is no guarantee even after pouring your heart and soul into the program that you will come out the other side being able to use those coveted two letters.  All this is true. He also points out that one can become successful in the business of wine with out the MW and references several accomplished persons to support his argument.  This is true as well but I have to ask myself, how much more successful and influential would these people be if they had attempted the program?  What would they have taken away from the time in the MW student trenches?  Even though I have yet to reach the coveted title, at least I’m trying. I’ve already seen myself grow to become a better winemaker and communicator from being in the program. The exposure to other aspects of the wine business and fellow students has broadened my horizons and taught me to think outside of my home region of the US.  The people that attempt the MW certification are some of the most amazing and intelligent people that I have had the pleasure of knowing. I am constantly amazed at the range of experiences and passion that the students bring every year to the seminar when everyone is introduced. 

When I do get to the point where I have passed the final hurdles and I have my MW the main payoff will be, in my mind, the personal satisfaction of reaching my goal. Of being able to look back over however many years at that point and see how I was able to overcome the mental and physical challenges that the program puts on you.  I likened it in a previous blog post to running a super marathon.  I never really understood why someone would put themselves through that sort of rigorous training and stress until I began the MW program.  Unless one knows the feeling of accomplishment that comes from surviving overwhelming obstacles and beating the odds, you probably wouldn’t understand why anyone would want to tackle the MW.  In short, no one needs an MW, but those who want it, REALLY want it. It’s personal and not for the faint of heart!

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