Here's what was on the five-day test.

By Mike Pomranz
June 18, 2019
LightFieldStudios/Getty Images

Master of Wine is generally considered one of the world’s top two wine credentials along with Master Sommelier. Needless to say, if you’re the kind of person whose wine knowledge ends at a bottle of Barefoot is great for any occasion, then you’re probably happy to admit that these top-level winos have knowledge way out of your league. But if you’re the kind of person who organizes their wine cellar by appellation, you might wonder if you have what it takes to battle it out with the big guns.

Well, don’t be curious anymore. This year’s Master of Wine exam was held from June 3 to 7, and as it does every year, the Institute of Masters of Wine (IMW) released the questions on its website to let people see exactly what this year’s 160 test takers had to go through. Likely even more interesting for more casual wine drinkers, the IMW also reveals which wines were served as part of the three 12-wine blind tastings.

Speaking of the blind tastings, they are broken down into whites, reds, and then the basically the rest (rosé, sparkling, fortified and sweet wines). For the questions, wines are commonly grouped into at least pairs of similar grape varieties or regions to help give tasters something to hone in on. But this is more than a guessing game: Saying “That’s The Doctors Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand” isn’t enough. Questions often ask participants to answer “with reference to winemaking” or “commercial potential.” So when confronted with that 2017 Single Vineyard Tannat from Bodega Garzón in Maldonado, Uruguay, be prepared to discuss its “likely market position” as well.

But tasting wine might sound like a treat compared to the “five three-hour question papers on viticulture, vinification and pre-bottling procedures, the handling of wine, the business of wine, and contemporary issues. These questions include dinner party non-favorites like “What are the critical considerations for selecting rootstock when establishing a new vineyard?” and “How do wine consumers in mainland China decide what wine to buy and what are the implications of their choices for producers and distributors?” Sure, a few questions do sound like gimmes — “Can social media drive brand loyalty in the wine category?” made this year’s test — but you’re probably thankful you’ve never had to tackle this topic at length.

You can find the entire test reprinted by The Drinks Business. Unfortunately, since such a large portion is a blind tasting, you can’t really recreate the experience at home to see if you’d pass. But don’t worry: Simply passing the test doesn’t mean you’ll join the ranks of the fewer than 400 people who’ve earned the title anyway. Itonly means you get to go on to the next stage: a 6,000- to 10,000-word research paper. Frankly, you’re probably better off spending time reorganizing your wine cellar. I think someone might have slipped a bottle of Barefoot Merlot into the Chassagne-Montrachet section.

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