A record 106 students around the world sat the annual Master of Wine examinations last week, in an attempt to achieve one of the wine industry's most-prized qualifications.
So far, 366 people have earned the coveted title, which involves a three-part examination: theory (four papers), practical (three papers) and a dissertation or research paper.
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While the idea of sitting examinations might not be everyone's cup of tea, it's interesting to see what kind of questions are being asked at such a rarefied level.
Contemporary issues were to the fore in the four theory papers. Try this technical question: "Skin contact can last from minutes to months. Assess how varying this technique can influence wine style and quality before, during and after fermentation."
Or could you spend 45 minutes writing eruditely about one of these topics: "Can Australia recover its export markets?" "What would be the implications of a short harvest in 2014 in European vineyards?" Or how about this beauty: "Can the wine industry ever be socially responsible?"
Let's hope that students mugged up before the exam by reading the many related articles featured on Wine Searcher.
The three practical papers of 12 wines each – tasted blind of course – offered the usual mix of classics and surprises. In this section, candidates have to taste the wines and answer questions about their origin, the grape variety, style, and the relative quality and commercial appeal of each wine.
Tasting paper 3 traditionally covers sparkling, sweet and fortified wines, but often is feared by candidates for throwing a curve ball. It certainly did this year, by including Château Miraval, the Provence rosé produced by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, and cult Georgian wine Pheasant’s Tears Rkatsiteli.
Results will be published in September.
If you fancy testing your wine knowledge, the full theory and practical papers are available here.