The question papers and wine lists have been released! This means that not only can I now talk about what was involved in the exam, but also get something of a measure of how well I did. If you want to have a look, go to the ‘News’ section at www.mastersofwine.org.
It’s important to remember that getting the wines right isn’t the only way to pass the exam. Only a portion of marks are allocated to correct identification of origin or grape variety. The rest are gained through accurate assessment of the wine’s structural profile, and the use of this evidence to form logical and clear arguments relating to its quality, method of production and commercial appeal.
Examiners give varying degrees of latitude when marking the papers, depending on several factors. One is the degree to which a wine is considered a ‘classic’. For example, the first exam paper opened with two white burgundies. If you didn’t recognise them to be from Burgundy – or even being made from Chardonnay – this would be a problem. Particularly considering the fact that they were two very good Burgundies indeed. By contrast, our last paper of the week included a 10 year old Tawny wine from Australia (and not from the Douro, where you would expect to find this style). This was a very unusual choice, and students would probably not have been expected to identify it correctly. Marks would be given for sound arguments with a good amount of evidence, which come to an intelligent conclusion, even if incorrect.
I found that my identification was overall relatively good. In each paper I managed to get several wines bang on (very pleasing!), several were close – for example, getting the country correct but the grape variety incorrect. And, of course, there were a few disasters. Having had time to reflect, I think it is highly unlikely that I have passed this time around (just a few too many disasters!), but that doesn’t matter. We will receive the results at the end of October, at which point I will be ready to put together a study plan for attempt number two.