UK/European Tasting Events - MW Studying

Discussion in 'UK Wine Forum' started by Fintan Kerr, Jul 13, 2018.

  1. After a 6 month respite from studying, I've decided to ramp up with the intention of starting the MW course next year, in 2019. I have a financial plan in place and I'm messaging various people I know in the wine industry (including one or two generous souls from this parish) and a few that I don't, in an attempt to figure out the best way to approach the studying element.

    Due to the limited nature of structured, international tastings in Barcelona, I suspect the next few years will involve a lot of travel to the UK (London specifically) and other parts of Europe. Some of this will be visiting producers/distributors and so on, but I foresee the most cost effective way of tasting a large number of international wines is probably at some of the larger events in London.

    So - my question is this: Which events in and around London/other major cities would you recommend for someone in my position? There's only so often I can come across after all, and so I'm looking to maximise my time spent there. They could include Masterclasses or just be walk-around events. Ideally, I'd be able to spend 6-8 hours a day at the events and in a perfect world, there'd be some time and space to chat to the producers as well.

    My thanks as always for allowing me to brainstorm this sort of information from the forum - the collected wisdom is invaluable.
  2. Exciting news! Is VinExpo on your list (NB I've never been...). The Wine of Australia Australia Day Tasting always used to be worthwhile.
    Fintan Kerr likes this.
  3. Well... I can only talk about one wine region, but I am happy to help out in whatever way I can, just send me a PM.
    Fintan Kerr likes this.
  4. and don’t forget to pop something on the offline planner for the evenings... WIMPs lunches too.
    Fintan Kerr likes this.
  5. I did look at it, but I think it comes down to a choice between that and UGC. There's a similar event for Italy that looks worthwhile, though! I didn't know about the Wine Of Australia Day though - I'll check it out. Thanks for that :)
  6. I shall do indeed, Steven. Many thanks as always :)
    Steven Pritchard likes this.
  7. Everytime I come to London I live in hope of there being an offline coinciding with my visit, but it rarely happens. The only time I've managed one was when Lionel very kindly organised it around the one night I could feasibly make it. I would definitely like to attend a WIMPS though, and with me likely to pop over quite a bit in the coming years, I'm sure something must match up!
  8. Give a week or two’s notice, and I imagine something could be organised. Doesn’t have to coincide with a visit, it could be because of a visit!
    Alex Lake and Fintan Kerr like this.
  9. Hello Fintan. I am a Master of Wine. I passed in 2016. I too am stuck in a relative backwater, in my case, Wales. I am sure that you know other MWs and/or students, but am happy to proffer some advice, particularly on the theory side. It is good that you are thinking well ahead. Once you are engaged on the program you need to dedicate around 14 hours per week of pure theory study. It's not for everyone. It's 20% talent and 80% graft. At least you have the advantage of being close to some wine regions, so make friends very quickly with some local winemakers and get to know every aspect of their viticulture, winemaking and business.

    I still have my old study plan which I am happy to share. But, you need to develop your own style. Get some essay practice in.

    Are you in the business? I think there are now some pretty rigid entry requirements which include at least 3 years on working in the business and diploma.

    For UK events, you really need to prioritise those where there are a larger number of visiting winemakers. The generic events are better for this rather than the London Wine Fair where at the latter you are more likely to meet a rep. Wines of Chile tasting, Australia Day etc. Vinitaly might be useful.
  10. Hey Richard,

    Thanks for your detailed response. I would be very interested in talking further about the theory and fear not about the commitment; I myself am 20% talent and 80% graft, so hopefully a good match for the course!

    I'm not in the business as such; I'm a wine educator. I organise courses, tastings and as of next year, hopefully WSET courses as an APP and vineyard trips as well. I'm fortunate enough to have a few good contacts around Catalunya and hopefully in the south of France as well, to help me dig deep into the practical aspects of the theory. I worked a harvest in 2015 and I'll be trying to squeeze in a fair bit of hands-on work around the country where-ever I can. I've only been 'in' wine for 3 years now, so 4 by the time I apply and I recently passed the Diploma with merit. I'm using this year inbetween as a chance to prepare and flesh out my weaker spots. I know that it's not the most impressive CV, but hopefully enough for the IMW to let me begin!

    Those events are ideal - thank you. If you have anymore that are ran in a similar vein I'd be all ears. Are the Decanter Fine Wine Events useful at all, from a students point of view?
  11. For all things Italian Vinitaly is a must although if I'd advise attending for a few days and also having a clear plan of what you want to taste/who you want to meet prior to the fair as it's a massive event and can be a bit overwhelming.

    Some of the UK merchants portfolio tastings are also worth attending (Liberty Wines one for example) as they tend to get a lot of winemakers coming over for this event.

    Also organise some trips to a region/make a few appointments with producers. Always a good idea I've found to give you a real sense of a area on many levels.
    Fintan Kerr likes this.
  12. Decanter events are quite useful as they are attended by the winemakers. There is a cost, but in the grand scheme that will be a small penalty.

    The IMW has a much higher applicant and student body than when I started. When I engaged there were around 30 in my year for the European program, now they have around 75. I understand they are also being very selective. I couldn't say what proportion of applicants are accepted, but it sounds like to me you have sufficient credentials.

    There is an app that you can get for your phone, the Wine Trade Diary which shows all events, generic and importer's, all around the country. I think it is called WSTA, Wine and Spirit Trade Association.
    Fintan Kerr likes this.
  13. Great advice, Mark, thank you. 3 days in Verona tasting Italian wine sounds like a great use of time to me! Do the UK merchants schedule these tastings often or are they annual events?

    I have a separate budget for regional visits and they'll largely be built around the gaps in my regional knowledge/convenience. Not quite as much fun as going where I want, but there's lots of time for that in the future.
    Mark Priestley likes this.
  14. Lovely, thank you Richard! Do you mind if I PM you some questions about your study plan?
  15. A great use of time I'd say. if you search online the dates for next year's Vinitaly may already be published; it usually falls sometime in March/April.

    Usually annual events; WSTA trade diary as Richard suggested is a good source of information for these events.

    In terms of the Decanter events I have rather mixed feelings about them. They've certainly escalated in price over the years and unless you get there for when it opens it gets mega busy and therefore chatting with producers becomes more difficult as they are essentially just pouring glass after the glass. The Masterclasses are good and can be useful especially if a producer is showcasing a vertical/horizontal of different vintages; tickets for these are more expensive and are sold separately from the main tasting. I've attended some good ones over the years though (Etna, Tignanello and Solaia, 2004 Barolo) so I'm a fan
    Fintan Kerr likes this.
  16. Hello Fintan, yes please do. Cheers.
  17. Richard may also concur but there are supplier tastings that I suspect might be useful if they will let you in. Liberty spring tasting used to have quite a few winemakers there - and gives you benefit of having wines from a wide range of styles / regions / countries - on the other hand a generic tasting is really the best way to nail and understand one country at a time - but always worth finding agencies with a broad range and seeing whether they are having a number of winemakers over at the same time. Agree on LWF - fine if it is all about the wine - less so being able to talk to winemakers and understand the decisions they have made, why they've made them, what that does to the wine and how it influences things. Wines unearthed at LWF had a lot of winemakers but in many cases I'm not sure whether you'd learn that much.....
    Fintan Kerr likes this.
  18. Liberty seems to have popped up a few times now. I seem to recall doing the Diploma with a couple of people who worked there - I'll send them a message and see if there's a way to sneak in. Thanks, Tim!
  19. Fintan
    I am sure there are people here with first hand experience but I remember speaking to a recent MoW a few years ago who said the same as Richard, 80% graft.

    They also said you need a lot of tastings. In addition to those already mentioned they contacted magazines and competitions to see if they could sit in on their taste tests.
    Fintan Kerr likes this.
  20. Thanks Richard! Yes, I started judging with the IWC last year and I suspect it'll become an important part of my tasting experience, particularly as there's such a broad spectrum of quality entered into the competition, from producers across the world. I typically attend for 4 days at a time, with around 60 wines tasted semi-blind per day. I'd consider Decanter but you specialise, and I'm not sure the 2-4 days of tasting Spanish wines will be worth the investment of time and money. Do you know of any others in particular that you think would be worthwhile?
  21. Before jumping into too many tastings, I would work out what your tasting goals are and then select/target your tastings in order to achieve them. I see too many MW candidates tasting extremely widely but with no clear outcome or goal in mind - so it's to minimal benefit.

    By the time I passed the tasting more than 50% of my prep was a combination of theory work and dry note practice. I do believe the practical exam is a theory paper seen through the lens of a wine glass.

    Work out where your weaknesses are and attend tastings to address them. If you have limited opportunity to taste the classics, go the a Decanter FW Encounter. If it's Chile, find a wines of Chile event. I'd write off the London trade fair and Vinexpo immediately in terms of truly useful tasting opportunities.

    The Institute do really good events with student discounts and they're really good study opportunities with many fellow students in attendance.

    Feel free to PM me.
    James Davis and Fintan Kerr like this.
  22. As Matthew suggests, some events like LWF are perhaps geared more for trade than those learning about wine (though the upper floor now offers massive opportunities to taste wines from “esoteric” sources such as The Azores, Moravia and such like).

    I am sure you would indeed find the tastings put on by certain countries’ wine bodies most useful. Australia Day, Wines of Canada at Canada House, Wines of Austria etc provide depth and focus.

    If you pick and choose, then some of the merchant portfolio tastings are well worth looking at. Now personally I’d not necessarily focus on merchants who have a very wide portfolio...for lack of focus.

    For example, Howard Ripley has a great German portfolio and you can attend a tasting of all their pradikat wines. You can then attend a tasting of all their GG’s (plus reds). For me, that has more focus.

    The Wimps lunches have, as you will know, a country or regional theme. The wines taken along can often be among the finest from that source. They provide an excellent opportunity to try wines with proper age. Knowing how a wine evolves is important yet most “tasting events” show younger wines. Of course, you need an example to take along.

    But with the travel, and potentially accommodation costs I appreciate you won’t make everything.

    When you consider how difficult it is to pass the MW, however, you may be inclined to take the view, on cost, of in for a penny in for a pound. Good luck.

    Oh, as a PS, if you are a MW student I’m reasonably sure you would be welcome at so-called trade only Tastings.
    Fintan Kerr likes this.
  23. That makes a lot of sense to me and I'll try to remember it that way! I suppose it's hard to know where my weak spots are until I start practicing tasting in the MW format. For example, as I've been practicing blind tasting almost weekly for over 2 years, I have a pretty solid grasp of the basics and I'm comfortable supporting my conclusions with gathered evidence. However, I haven't drilled into the classic regions to the extent that I perhaps should. The difference in the glass between a high quality producer from Pauillac vs the same from Pessac-Leognan? I know the theory but I don't know that I have it drilled into my palate yet.

    I've been watching a lot of Wine Tutor TV to get a grip and I'm hoping to chew the ear off a few MWs this November when I next pop over to judge, partly to start focusing on the MW format of tasting and supporting your conclusion.

    I will certainly PM you at some point - thanks for the offer and taking the time to advise me!
  24. Thanks for your thoughts, David! Unfortunately the MW is going to stretch my financial capabilities to the limit, which is part of the reason I'm preparing and saving a year in advance. It'll be essential to choose my trips carefully.

    On that note, I was very interesting in your list of tastings by wine bodies: Do you know of any more? I need to dig through the Trade Diary linked above, but if there's any others you know off the top of your head, that'd be wonderful.

    Interestingly I was reading about the last Howard Ripley tasting through the perspective of a certain gentleman on and thinking "Hrm, that'd be a useful tasting to attend!".
  25. Fintan, name a country or a big wine region and its appropriate wine body (sometimes governing, sometimes promoting) will have a tasting.

    How do I hear about them? First I do have the WSTA diary (invaluable but not everything gets in it for some reason).

    Second, many events are handled by the big wine PR companies. For example, fairly recent tastings for Beaujolais, Ribera del Duero and Canada (quite a variety there) were organised through Westbury Communications.

    Then others I go to after invitation from a merchant/importer. A good example would be getting the date for the big annual Wines of Spain gig via Indigo (who arguably have the best Spanish portfolio in the UK).

    Finally, I pick up on a surprising number of events via social media.

    That said, I can only usually manage to get to one or a max of two events per week of whatever type, so I still miss loads of stuff...but my focus is often the little guys anyway. There are enough people writing on Bordeaux and Burgundy so I try mostly to look elsewhere. Not so good for MW study (things like natural wine, orange wine, Moravia and such weird stuff are not yet fully part of the IMW world, but maybe they just change more slowly than the market).

    That does bring me to the reasons why I never went for the MW course (I got my Diploma back in the 1990s) being my change of focus and philosophy.

Share This Page