The Life of an MW Student – Fifteen

‘What, there’s a stage THREE?’ – This is what ran through my head when an email dropped into my inbox about the final part of the Master of Wine qualification. It turns out that I had been so zoned in to preparing for the stage two exams this year that I had completely forgotten that there was more to do after (if!) I pass them.

Stage three consists of a research project on an area of the student’s own choice. Any subject is up for grabs, as long as it makes a contribution to the collective knowledge of the wine trade. It is a chance to develop real depth of knowledge in a specific area of the world of wine. We are told that it will shape our careers. That we will become known as industry experts relating to that specific subject. So what on EARTH should I choose? It feels like quite the commitment. Worse than that too, it feels incredibly daunting. What meaningful contribution can I make to the world of wine?

A look through titles chosen by current MWs does nothing to help me. The topics are as diverse as Susan Lin MW’s ‘Influences of classical music on the perception of a Brut non-vintage Champagne’, Adam Porter MW’s ‘Can premium wines be marketed in single serve cans in the UK retail market?’ and Fongyee Walker MW’s ‘A comparative study of winter vine burial practices in Ningxia and Hebei’.

At least it will be easier than preparing for the stage two exams, I reason with myself. That is until I watch a webinar where two recent MWs share their Research Paper experiences. One mentions that he spent more hours on his research paper than any other part of the programme. Another emphasises multiple times that the difficulty of stage three should not be underestimated. Great.

Oh, and another thing – I need to submit a draft proposal in two weeks!

Of course, the title I pick now doesn’t have to (and let’s face it, is unlikely to be good enough to) be what my project ends up as. But it seems foolish to waste the opportunity for some valuable feedback by submitting something I don’t have the intention of following through with.

I have briefly flirted with the idea of doing something related to wine and its place in Victorian poetry. This would be familiar territory, as it’s what I specialised in at university. But as sorely tempting spending a year poring over poetry in the Bodleian is, it’s unlikely to help my career to move in the way I would like it to.

After discussions with friends, family and colleagues, I hit on an idea I think might just do the trick. However, another piece of advice you are often given when submitting your research paper proposals is to keep your cards close to your chest, lest someone else get in there before you. So, you’ll all have to wait until after I’ve passed my stage two exams to hear what it is.