The Life of an MW Student – Eighteen

Last month I wrote my column from a rather anonymous hotel in Dorking, not far from Denbies Wine Estate. I was there for the MW Stage Two seminar – a rigorous week of mock exams, lectures and classes aimed at getting us match fit for our exams in July.

Each morning we filed into a lecture hall and with a faintly sick feeling, lined up twelve wine glasses on our tables. We would then pour our samples from unlabelled bottles, set our timers, open our laptops and get ready to begin. Two hours and fifteen minutes of furious tasting and typing would follow, as we did our very best to understand, analyse, and construct sound arguments relating to the twelve wines in front of us.

After the exam and a much-needed coffee and cake break, the dreaded post-mortem would take place. During this session, our answers would be projected on a screen for all to spick apart. This is a terrifying experience until you realise that every other person in the room has made mistakes that are as bad as (or worse than) yours. Letting go of the fear of being wrong is a liberating experience, and really is the only way to learn. The sense of camaraderie among the students is also a comfort, and we often find ourselves partaking in a bizarre game of one-upmanship for who has made the worst ‘clanger’ in a blind tasting exam.

A week of firm but fair feedback on my blind tasting performance has done what it was intended to, and focused my mind. I was given several key pieces of advice during the seminar week, which I have built into my study plan. My favourite of these was in response to a mix up between three different wines all made from the Nebbiolo grape variety. It was, simply, that I had to drink more Barolo. Now that’s the kind of advice I can get behind.

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