I’d wake up over and over during the night, convinced that it was time to get up and start revising. Usually at about 5:00 I’d decide enough was enough and actually get started, reviewing flashcards and vintage charts for a couple of hours before moving on to a bit of tasting practice. I dread to think what the housekeeping staff thought of me – most of my luggage consisted of thirteen bottles of wine!
The exams were held at the Royal National Hotel in Bloomsbury – a thirty-minute bus journey from my Maida Vale studio. As I made my way there on day one, a sense of calm began to descend. Just getting to the point where you can sit the MW exams is an achievement and a privilege. I thought of all the hours of work I’ve put in over the decade that I’ve been studying wine, and steeled myself. It was time to show them what I was made of.
Setting out the glasses in the exam hall felt strangely meditative, and very familiar. I had been doing mock tasting papers at least once a week for the last several months, after all. The faces around the room, too, were familiar. Nobody talked much – exchanges of nervous smiles and whispers of ‘good luck’ were about all we could manage.
After the exams we all scattered. There is nothing worse than discussing what you thought the wines might have been with other students – it can ruin your confidence and damage your performance in the upcoming papers. A coffee, a sandwich and lots of cramming for the afternoon’s theory paper was about all I could manage.
After a three-hour written paper (which seemed to go by in a matter of minutes) I’d rush back to my hotel for more cramming, a ready meal and an early night. Living the dream indeed.
By the end of the week I was utterly spent. I felt brittle, existing on caffeine and adrenaline. A sense of serenity has been slowly creeping into my mind during the past week, and I’m starting to get back to normality.
I can’t talk about the specifics of the exams yet for confidentiality reasons. All I will say is that they were difficult (which wasn’t really a surprise!) and I’m pleased with my first attempt. Bearing in mind the extremely low pass rate I don’t expect to get through this time around. Results will come at the end of October, and so until then I plan to take a break and enjoy drinking wine again!