The MW theory exams for 2022 were a typical mix of classic questions and hot topics for today’s world of wine. Depending on the paper, candidates select two to three questions from a list of five or six options.
Paper One, on the subject of Viticulture, began with the classic topics of vineyard pests and diseases. However, it also invited candidates to consider whether glyphosate should be banned in modern viticulture. We could also have written about the use of cover crops in a vineyard, the impact of geology on viticulture, and the timing of pruning.
The winemaking paper opened with two fairly technical questions. One was on the process of malolactic fermentation, during which sharp malic acid in a wine is converted into softer lactic acid. The other on lees – dead yeast cells which impact flavour, texture and stability of wine. We moved on to consider maceration techniques, consistency of style, and methods of remedying common wine faults. The final question focused on reducing the risk of premature oxidation of high-quality Chardonnay, a key concern for both producers and investors of fine white Burgundy.
We looked at bulk shipping, methods of filtration, stabilisation and requirements for analysis and labelling in Paper Three.
Paper Four is on the subject of The Business of Wine. Here, we were asked to consider the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on consumer wine purchasing behaviours. We considered what measures determine the strength of a wine brand, what or who are the most important influencers of consumer wine behaviour and which emerging countries have the greatest potential for the future. Other questions focused on the most attractive markets for premium Italian wines, and the means by which a one-million case winery might become carbon neutral.
The final paper, ‘Contemporary Issues’, considered topics such as natural wine, wine education, the use of artificial intelligence in the wine industry, biodynamics and sustainability and wine writing.
It is often said that each question posed in the MW theory exams could be the subject of a dissertation. When sitting the exam, candidates must construct a well argued, logical, factually correct argument to each question they select within an hour. It is just as much about what you choose to leave out as what you put in (another common piece of advice, aimed at preventing us from going down less than relevant rabbit holes of tangential information). So, did I put in the right things? I’ll find out in two weeks – although I can’t say I’m at all confident!