The New Masters of Wine (MWs):

By: Caroline Hermann

On November 6, 2018, the UK-based Institute of Masters of Wine officially welcomed 14 new Masters of Wine (MW) to its membership, of which I was one.

Candidates must pass:

–      a four-day theory exam requiring critical analysis of all aspects of viticulture, vinification, the business of wine, and contemporary issues;

–      a three-day, 36-wine blind tasting analysis, testing the ability to “taste like a detective and argue like a lawyer”; and

–      a 10,000-word research paper which must include qualitative and quantitative statistical data analysis on a wine-related topic.

The Institute now has 380 MWs from 30 different countries across five continents, and interest is growing despite the rigorous standards and low pass rate (16% the year I passed my tasting analysis exam). There are currently 344 students in the MW program from 40 countries,

The ceremony was held in London’s Vintners Hall for the Worshipful Company of Vintners, and is rightly considered to be the “spiritual home of the international wine trade.” The Vintners’ Company gained its first Charter in 1363.  And it was granted the current site in 1446, when the wine trade constituted nearly one-third of medieval England’s entire import trade.  Today’s building dates from 1671, with restorations following bomb damage during WWII.  The Vintners’ Company held the first MW exam in 1953, and funded both the creation of the Institute in 1955 and the Wine & Spirit Education Trust in 1969.

Against this historical backdrop, it was truly awe-inspiring and quite emotional to receive my certificate as only the 18th woman in the US to have passed. The Hall was filled with family, friends, and MWs from around the world. The Bollinger flowed freely. And the words of congratulations from my MW colleagues were heartfelt, with the shared experience of sacrifice and hard work. No one can complete this program on their own, and the ceremony was a reminder of the vast network of support required. To have family and friends who traveled from the US just to share that moment meant the world to me.

The day had started with the Annual Claret Tasting, showcasing the 2014 vintage from the Grands Crus Classés of the Médoc and their equivalents from the Right Bank and Graves. A somewhat challenging vintage, it was the perfect subject to inspire the thoughtful conversations that I so appreciate from this group. After a debrief on the state of the Institute (and a gentle reminder of our duties to give back to the Institute and students), we congregated in a wood-paneled room filled with 18th c. paintings for interviews, photographs, and a chance to catch up with each other. When asked to comment on the MW program, some of the descriptions I overheard were perseverance, determination, resilience, commitment, sacrifice, passion, gratitude, and relief.

And now the learning begins, along with the pressure to contribute to the quality and standards of the Institute and the global wine trade. I am so grateful to everyone who supported me along the way, and elated to be part of this community.