Masters of Wine

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About

Masters of Wine, those who have passed the examinations held every year by the Institute of Masters of Wine (IMW), the wine trade’s most famous and most demanding professional qualification. The Institute had its origins in the British wine trade in the early 1950s, when a counterpart to the qualifying examinations for other professions was devised by a group of wine merchants in conjunction with the vintners’ company. The first examination was held in London in 1953 and six of the 21 candidates were deemed to have qualified as Masters of Wine. The Institute of Masters of Wine was formed in 1955. The examinations consist of five written papers and three ‘practical’ (i.e. wine tasting) papers and since 1999 those who pass all of them must write an approved research paper to qualify as an MW. The examinations are distinguished by the breadth and depth of their scope. University courses (see academe) offer more detailed instruction in the oenology or viticulture of a particular country or region, while the MW examinations test knowledge of both subjects on a worldwide basis, as well as of such varied subjects as élevage, bottling, transport, quality control, marketing, commercial aspects of the wine trade, the effects of wine consumption on health, and general wine knowledge. Each tasting paper requires candidates to describe, assess, and, often, identify up to 12 wines served blind. These wines, including sparkling and fortified wines, may come from anywhere in the world.