April 6, 2023

Library Release - The Hardest Wine Exam in the World w/ Mark de Vere, MW

Library Release -  The Hardest Wine Exam in the World w/ Mark de Vere, MW
Apple Podcasts podcast player badge
Spotify podcast player badge
Google Podcasts podcast player badge
Castro podcast player badge
RSS Feed podcast player badge

The hardest wine exam in the world, an elite community of >400 wine professionals, and learning how to engage with wine more. All those elements describe the Institute of Masters of Wine and the Master of Wine (“MW”) exam. MW Mark DeVere tells us how becoming an MW landed him a full-time job in Napa to all the rigors required to pass the MW exam. This a must-listen episode for those considering applying for the MW program or those who love learning about challenging wine exams.  

Detailed Show Notes: 

Institute of Masters of Wine (“IMW”) background

  • Currently, 418 Masters of Wine, >490 have passed the exam over time
  • It started in 1953 in London as London was the most globally focused wine trading hub in the world
  • ~20 people sat the exam in 1953, with 6 passing; it was only open in the UK at that time
  • The purpose was to measure who was a master of the overall wine trade
  • 1st non-UK residents were Australians and Americans who went to the UK to work and sit the exams

Now a global institution - MWs in 30 countries, exams offered around the world (London, California, Australia), head office is still in London

  • The mission of the IMW - is to promote excellence, interaction, and learning in the global wine trade
  • Interaction through tastings and the MW symposium (held every 4 years)
  • Excellence and learning through setting the MW exam
  • Not an educational organization like the WSET

IMW vs. Court of Master Sommeliers (“CMS”)

  • MS has a more laddered program (i.e., more levels before the master level)
  • MW has no practical service element
  • MS exam is oral, MW is all written
  • The MW Study Program
  • Goal: to help orient people to understand what the end goal is - to gain the depth and breadth of the challenge of the MW exam
  • Need to know every step of the wine business, from the vineyard to wine landing on the table
  • There are time limits for getting through the program now, ~5 years, with the goal of not getting people stuck in it

3 Stages

  • Stage 1 - 1st orientation to the program, has the Stage 1 assessment - proving you can understand the issues, 12 wines blind, 1 set of theory essays
  • Stage 2 - preparation for the MW exam, which is 3 x 2.25-hour blind tasting exams with 12 wines each, 5 x timed theory exams
  • Stage 3 - research paper, developing something new for the world of wine

Pass Rate of the MW exam

  • Used to say ~10% of people that sat the exam
  • Hard to calculate a rate due to people who sit multiple times and can pass certain portions of the exam
  • IMW is actively trying to increase the pass rate by making it more challenging to get in and sit the exam
  • ~15-20% of people who enter the program actually complete it; ~75-100 are admitted to the program each year, and ~10-20 people become MWs each year
  • The value of the program, if you don’t complete is learning how to understand the issues around wine better, engaging with wine differently, and building communication skills

More people are applying for the MW program, and it’s becoming a more global program

The IMW and diversity

  • The exam is entirely blind, making it unable to discriminate via grading
  • Conduct outreach to all parts of the world to generate a diverse pool of candidates
  • ~150 female MWs today

Being an MW

  • The title does carry some weight within the wine world
  • It got Mark a permanent job at Mondavi after being hired for only a seasonal position
  • Join a community of MWs, where giving back to the wine world is one of the core tenets

Get access to library episodes

Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.