16 new MWs. Do we care?

I had just finished the Diploma and I won the Moet Scholarship for the best paper in Sparkling. I just had Twins four months earlier. I really wanted to go for MW but before taking the plunge I wanted to assess how big was the knowledge gap with the Diploma and with what I knew. I got hold of the material through friends (1000s of pages) and I went to several MW tastings held by students. I went to the Master Classes. I spoke with several MWs.

What I learned along those 4 months, I needed to understand the MODEL underlying the Programme. As economist at heart I still believe models are the best way to capture reality despite their obvious shortcomings. It can be summarised in: do you agree with the way the IMW thinks about wine? In my mind this was the most important question to answer.

I discovered that I like the way the IMW deals with wine. I came out of those four months believing this is the gold standard. Moreover I believed, clearly a mistake!, that I just needed to double my Diploma knowledge. I wanted a seat at the table.

However I learned that our No. 3 was on her way and I shelved my dream.

Congratulations to all new MWs!


P.S. There are many other models. Like others mentioned there are many others in the trade to be granted MW-equivalent titles (importers come first to mind). They just follow other models
The MW qualification is highly regarded in the UK because, at the end of the day, there are no real oenology institutions in the UK (Plumpton teaches oenology but it's not on the same level as the wine institutes in other wine-producing countries).

The technical part of the MW exam is of a lower level than a degree in oenology and viticulture. The MW thesis papers cover a very broad range of topics. Some of them are scientific but most of them focus on business and marketing and quite a lot are more akin to an in-depth journalistic article than an academic thesis. I know because during my studies, I tried to use the theses published by the IMW as references. Some of them are scientific but they are not on a par with those published in journals like the American Journal of Enology, the IVES or any other research publisher.

It may be that MWs are hired as consultants for wineries but I doubt any winery would hire an MW instead of a qualified and experienced oenologist. The main reason for a winery hiring an MW is for their network of contacts and then for their understanding of the market.

I'm not knocking the MWs or the rigours of qualifying, especially the blind tasting part, but let's not confuse an MW with an oenologist or viticultural expert.
undergraduates? Really? Let’s not turn this into a p*ssing match. I’m out.
As someone who makes a living out of marking undergraduate theses (as well as postgraduate theses), I'd have to concur with Gareth's assessment. In my field of science, a 'standard' PhD course is a minimum of 3 years full time study which concentrates entirely on the research project. This generally results in a thesis around 50,000-70,000 words in length, covering anywhere from 150-300 pages (depending on the size of technical diagrams, etc.). Plus appendices, which can easily add another 100+ pages. Part-time students are not particularly common, but they do exist and 6-7 years is the typical length of study, although this does vary depending on how much time the student can afford to dedicate to the research. I'm sure you will correct me if I'm wrong, but I highly doubt MW candidates spend anywhere near that amount of time solely dedicated to their research.

Out of curiosity I went and downloaded a random set of MW theses. In terms of depth, length and rigour they are simply incomparable to a PhD thesis. This isn't meant in any way to demean the achievements of those who have achieved MW; rather it should give you an idea of just how much study is required to achieve a PhD which is, lets not forget, the highest level of academic qualification it is possible to get.
As an MSc and an MBA, attempting an MW did have a certain allure for a time - why not the trilogy? But I really couldn’t think of why I would want to learn about grape varieties and wines from countries that I had minimal interest in following - particularly given that Burgundy is such an open-ended subject in itself.

That said, part of the allure was that an MW is just not an academic qualification - there’s the physiological aspect of ‚can you really taste‘ - this is absent from other professional qualifications and makes a MW something ‚distinct.‘

Am I interested in every new crop of MWs? - absolutely not - and I’m rather contemptuous of those that suddenly add MW to their twitter names or whatever, which I see in the same light as PhDs insisting that you call them a doctor. But do I respect the attainment - you bet...

I agree with David, there is an academic hirearchy in qualifications - the masters takes one year full-time (post graduate) the PhD another two - a MW isn’t a ‚doctor...‘
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How does one become an ex-MW?
As a professional qualification, I simply assume that you should honourably return your certificates and desist from using the 'titles' said professional body has conferred upon you if you choose to no-longer pay your subs. Clubs such as the IMW need to earn money from somewhere.
I well remember such a request from my former 'club,' the Royal Society of Chemistry, way back in the mid-90s (not for my degree but for the designation of 'Chartered Chemist') when I realised that working for a US company meant that I would be much more highly valued as an MBA than as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry...

The MW is the highest standard of qualification available in wine education and incredibly difficult to achieve, so yes, these are 16 individual achievements to be applauded. As Jonathan mentions, there are specific courses for anyone looking to work in a specific field of the wine industry, but to cover such a broad swathe of it at such a high level... remarkable stuff.

The strength of this achievement will continue to be true as membership reaches 1,000, 5,000 and so on. What will probably change is the commercial reward at the end of it all, which for anyone paying their own way was probably already quite modest in comparison to what is spent.

It´s also worth mentioning that some of the people who´ve passed the course in the last 10 years are incredible ambassadors for the industry. Lots of motivated and passionate people who also happen to be incredibly sharp and often quite young. I´ll take that over the mystique of only having a few pass every year.
As a slight aside, do current MWs feel that this has become a more difficult qualification to attain? I did the diploma some years ago when you basically needed a good knowledge of the classic European regions, central Europe and something of a few 'New World' regions. Looking at the same qualification taken by a friend a year or so ago it appears a far wider knowledge is now required.
Richard, I can confirm the Diploma has been vastly expanded even since I got it (2016). The tasting part is not particularly challenging.
The same can be heard from most people when discussing the MW but I have no direct experience.
Hey, I just found out that four of the sixteen new Master of Wines are Canadian, and three of them are women. They aren't from Alberta but just for the heck of it I'm linking an iconoc Canadian music video by Tom Cochran shot in southern Alberta called Life is Highway. My mother was born in the area and the ferry in an early scene of the video is likely the Bleriot Ferry, named after a man who settled in the area who was the brother of the Louis Bleriot who made the first Channel crossing in an aircraft back in 1909. We took the ferry some years ago when we celebrated my Mum's 80th by visiting her birthplace. As it turned out the ferry operator, as a 16 year-old assisting his father, remembered meeting my grandfather when he used the ferry crossing. Coincidentally, his birthday was on the same day as my Mum's.

Anyway, in honour of the Canadian MW's, Tom Cochran's Life is a Highway:

Cheers ..................................... Mahmoud.
The importance of an Italy-based MW is paramount. Along with Chile and Portugal, Italy was the only country in the leading wine exporter (almost overlaps with largest producers) who did not have a resident MW. Moreover, the importance of Italy in the wine world is hard to understate.

Italy now has an ambassador that can connect Italy to the world with an authoritative voice. Whatever you may think about the MW title, it is revered worldwide. It also generated a good amount of publicity within Italy. This may help to shed some light to a fundamentally misunderstood (locally) qualification.

There are many reasons, Italy had to wait this long. One can argue the curriculum favours nonproducing countries as France, Spain and Italy only have a fraction of all MWs. There is some truth in that as if you walk in any wine shop (or supermarket) and you find an abundance of local wine happening to be very cheap. Clearly this does not leave almost any room for foreign wines.

This has a non-secondary side effect in the sense that you don’t taste any wines of the world (this includes France except for Champagne) up until you embark in the WSET sequence. Adding to that, Italy does not have many worldwide relevant wines in the WSET context: possibly Nebbiolo, Sangiovese and a few others. Hence any Italian must find a reliable supply of foreign wines at all price points. Someone in the UK needs to walk in Waitrose or even Tesco to find all the material.

Adding to this and speaking from experience, it is a lot easier to look at the wine world through the IMW lenses once you lived in the UK for a while. Despite the syllabus being ample and global, its core is deeply rooted in the British way (nothing wrong with that in my opinion!).

Finally, the ability to speak and write in English in a concise and authoritative manner is very rare to come across in Italy. First and foremost because English is poorly taught at school and secondly because Italian is a beautiful language but very verbose. Summaries are not an Italian specialty. (As you can probably guess from my write-up!)

There are two more Italian MWs waiting in the wings and 3 years ago Italians were the largest student group at the Institute. Let’s see what the future bring and well done Gabriele Gorelli MW!

P.S. There are 2 MW with an Italian passport but neither ever lived in Italy.
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