The Life of an MW Student – Forty

On the MW programme, you go to a study seminar each year during February. This is an intensive week of mock exams and expert-led tastings or lectures. During this week, one of your mock exams is marked by a Master of Wine. This is intended to act as a barometer for where you are in your studies, giving you enough time to make improvements before the real thing in June.

At the Stage One seminar, I (totally exhausted and overwrought) burst into tears when the poor MW tasked with giving my feedback very kindly explained that I had a very long way to go.

At my first Stage Two seminar, another equally kind MW told me that he didn’t mark the final question I had answered because I was so far off the mark, there was no point in going over my answers. To give you an idea of how bad that question was, I freaked out over a flight of fortified wines so badly that I didn’t realise a Tawny Port was made from red grapes. I did slightly less poorly on a trio of Nebbiolo, correctly identifying the grape variety, but completely failing to determine which of the wines was a relatively generic £15 bottle and which was a £70 Riserva.

Last year’s seminar saw me doing a bit better. The first couple of questions went reasonably well, but again, disaster struck on a flight of sweet and fortified wines, causing me to tank the entire paper.

Given this litany of disasters, you’ll understand the trepidation I felt when sitting down for my feedback session this year. We went through the paper question by question, and as we carried on I started to realise that something strange was happening. When the final page was turned and my grade revealed, I almost fell off my chair. I had passed. What on earth was happening?

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