Institute of the Masters of Wine
The mission of the Institute of the Masters of Wine is to promote, “the highest standards of quality in wine, the highest standards of excellence in wine, and the highest standards of conduct within the wine industry.” To this end, successful candidates must demonstrate their expertise in, “sensory evaluation and understanding of the world’s wines; and gathering, understanding, interpreting, and communicating knowledge of and insights about the world’s wines and the wine industry.”
Before qualifying to take the examination, candidates must have been working in the wine industry for at least five years, passed Institute’s two year Mastery of Wine Educational Programme, have two sponsors (one from the candidate’s own job experience and one from the Institute of the Masters of Wine), and abide by the code of conduct.
The examination syllabus consists of four theory papers, a practical tasting, and a dissertation. The first two theory papers are concerned with all aspects of wine production from the vine to the bottle. The third theory paper covers the business of wine including marketing, finance, and trends. The fourth theory paper is about contemporary and relevant issues to the wine industry.
The practical tasting tests candidates’ ability to thoroughly describe wine from the standpoint of appearance, nose, and palate. Once this is done, the origin, production methods, quality, age, vintage, maturity, aging potential, and commercial positioning must be deduced.
Once the theory papers and practical tasting have been passed, work can begin on the dissertation. This is an in-depth research paper on a subject chosen by the candidate. The dissertation must contain relevant, original ideas that are of interest not just to the candidate, but also the wine industry as a whole.
In 1953, six candidates passed the first Masters of Wine examination. For the first three decades after the organization’s founding, it was limited to British wine merchants, retailers, and importers. This changed in the 1980s, and the first non-British individual passed the exam in 1987.