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Emerging from the Obstacle Course (MW Marathon Lap 4)

Last week, I officially registered to sit the MW Stage 1 exam on July 25th.  Per MW guidelines, students must take this exam at the end of each year that they are registered in S1 unless they have “special consideration” approved. For a brief moment – I considered this. 

I am nowhere near where I’d planned to be in my exam preparation process.  Losing my Dad in January sent me off my carefully constructed path. Since then, I feel like I’ve been stuck on an obstacle course – and unfortunately it hasn’t been the fun, colorful type of course where everyone is laughing and covered with paint.

There have been a couple of times these past few months when I’ve felt like my “normal self” – motivated, focused and in study-mode.  During those times, I’d buckle down for a few days and start to get into a groove.  But then I would encounter the obstacle course yet again, and realize that my brain wasn’t ready for intensely focused study. And with my exam on the horizon, panic was setting in.

Thankfully, since attending my WSET Diploma graduation in London last month, I have felt a slow and steady rhythm building – and there are several people responsible for this. 🙂 I spent some unforgettable evenings (and bottles of wine!) with my Diploma study group – most of whom I’d met only virtually.  Throughout much of 2020 and a chunk of 2021, our group met weekly on Zoom to review an area of the wine world – and to share our struggles and support one another.  Although we were spread out all over the world, the D3 exam and the global pandemic brought us together.  Through births, deaths, new jobs, moves and divorces – our group was there for each other.  To finally see them in person and hug and laugh and raise glasses together was something I will treasure forever.

Members of my WSET Diploma Family!

Some fellow Diploma graduates . . . and hopefully future MWs!

While in London I also clicked with several new friends. These individuals know a lot about wine, but they’re also able to just enjoy and not overanalyze every glass – something all too rare in wine geeks (myself included!) A few are considering the MW program and I will do everything I can to help them succeed!

And I finally met one of my fabulous mentors – Jim Gore. His positive impact on students is something I aspire to have 1/100th of.  After briefly mentioning to him my struggles with the MW program so far, he’s already reached out and connected me with a small group of other MW hopefuls. Thank you Jim!

On graduation day, I introduced myself to several fellow graduates and was met with responses of “oh, you’re Outwines!” This brought a HUGE smile to my face! 🙂 Having worked so hard on social media to create edutaining content for a community of wine geeks, celebrating with them in person gave me such a sense of comradery.  We all managed to accomplish this huge goal – and during some incredibly fucking difficult years!

When I walked up, Paul Symington said to me “Sounds like you have a lot of friends!” And you know what . . . I think I do!! 🙂

There were times during my Diploma studies when I questioned why the hell I was doing the program and whether all the time and energy I was expending would be worth it.  My graduation celebration proved to me that indeed it was.  But not simply for the piece of paper, the friends I met on my Diploma journey are just as important to me as the certification itself.  So, to each and every one of you who I crossed paths with: from the bottom of my heart, Thank You for inspiring me, putting some wind back in my wine study sails – and helping me emerge from the obstacle course.

Most students will go through obstacle courses over their MW journey.  Some might be fun or adventurous: starting a new job, moving to a different city, having a baby, getting married.  And others will be more of a struggle: dealing with unemployment, suffering an illness, losing a family member or loved one.  So, after briefly pondering whether I should apply for “special consideration” for the S1A – I decided to go forward and sit the exam.  I have wind in my sails and I am confident that over the next 8 weeks I can get myself in a decent spot for success.  Plus – I have that pile of outlines I diligently researched whilst preparing for the entrance exam!

However, I’ve also reached a point of acceptance that I may not pass the S1A and move onto stage 2 this year.  Admittedly, this would be a bit deflating.  But I’m trying to change my mindset about this possible outcome and view it as an opportunity instead. Repeating S1 would give me another year to prepare for the HUGE leap to S2 and having (almost!) completed one year of the MW program, I have a better idea of how to more efficiently spend my study time. There are a number of repeat students in my S1 class – and whenever I’ve spent time with them, it’s clear to me how far ahead they are in their studies. I also know several applicants for the new S1 class, and I would love to be surrounded by these awesome individuals. And finally, repeating stage 1 would give me another chance to better document the first year of the program.  What I’d intended to be a detailed and transparent blog series to help future MW students, turned into an incredibly personal and emotional outpouring of the feels. 

So for now, I’ll leave you with this poignant pic I saw on Liz and Mollie’s Instagram account. Success and strength come not only from climbing mountains, but also from getting ourselves out of trenches – and out of obstacle courses.

Focusing on What’s Important (MW Marathon Lap 3)

This was a tough lap.  But I learned a lesson that I’ll undoubtedly keep coming back to during my MW Marathon.

Since the turn of the last calendar page, I’ve been gearing up for the Stage 1 seminar.  As newbies, this will be our first official foray into the MW program with several days filled with mock exams, tastings and panel discussions.  Other S1 seminars around the world have been postponed due to Covid, but the North America seminar (in my beloved Washington state!) is going forward. It also sounds like our S1 assessment exam (originally scheduled for early June) will be delayed as well.

We’ve also been given our first assignments! (yes, that’s an exclamation point because I am genuinely excited about them!) These aren’t mandatory per se, but based on what I hear through the grapevine these assignments can be taken into account in determining whether a S1 student is ready to move onto Stage 2.  The assignments are excellent exam practice and we’ll receive feedback from MWs . . . better to find out early on where you’re going wrong, right?  Plus, the assignments are part of the S1 program fees – so we’ve already paid for them.  Barring an emergency, why the hell wouldn’t I take the time to do them?!

I was mid-way through completing an assignment when I received a text that my Dad was going into hospice care. (I tried to come up with a smoother segue for this, but there really isn’t any). He’d had a recent bout with pneumonia and had been in the hospital for a few days.  At 90, we all knew that bouncing back would be a struggle, but many in my family were optimistic.  Including me.

Reality set in with that text.

After going on a walk with Hubs to calm down so I could make some clear headed decisions, I came back home and booked my flight to Washington state leaving the next day. I needed to pack for several days of cold weather, notify family and friends of my flight arrangements, and cancel appointments for the week. But instead of frantically tackling these things, I sat down at my desk and finished that assignment.  Obviously, my brain was not in the best space, but I wanted to complete it.  And I knew my Dad would encourage me to finish it . . . he’s been like that ever since I can remember.

Growing up, he constantly told me I was capable of doing anything I put my mind to.  And I know it frustrated the crap out of him when I didn’t give something my best effort (like the D+ in 7th grade science.)  I’ve never been a Sheldon Cooper, but I’m intelligent enough and fiercely determined. Which, much to my metallurgical engineer Dad’s dismay, was never in the science realm.  So even with everything else going on that day – I finished my MW assignment because I wanted to give it my best effort.

Last September, I visited my Dad shortly after being accepted in the MW program.  I explained to him what the next several years would entail for me, but he wasn’t fully able to process the magnitude of this program.  However, as a lifelong amateur astronomer, he DID understand that more people have gone into space than have become MWs!

This time, I brought along my MW study materials and trusty laptop because I knew I’d have a lot of downtime.  But I never touched them. Although I did have a lot of downtime, what I didn’t have was focus.  I wasn’t able to concentrate on anything other than what was going on with my Dad.  So, I sat with him.  Talked to him.  Held his hand. Gathered around him with family telling stories and sharing memories.

After being up in my hometown for nearly a week, I mentioned my “lack of focus” in an email to my business partner and amazing friend, Amber.  Her response to me was:

Noelle, you are focusing. You are focusing where your head and heart are and that is with your dad and family. Don’t beat yourself up over a distraction. We live in a world of distraction, every day of our lives. It’s okay to set that aside now. You are exactly where you should be and all your brainpower is exactly where you need it to be.

After reading her reply, I knew she was right (as usual!).  So instead of plowing through the rest of my emails that morning, I opted to head upstairs to see my Dad.

His room was quiet and peaceful and the morning sunlight had just started to peek in through the windows.  My wonderful stepmom was with the night nurse standing by his bedside.  I joined them and with our hands all resting on him, we chatted about how he was doing.  We noticed his breathing getting quite slow and then – it just stopped. 

Had I taken the time to read through my emails, I probably wouldn’t have been there for his last moments.

While my Dad wasn’t able to communicate very well during his final days, he knew I was there with him.  I have no regrets that I spent hours sitting with this wonderful man as opposed to cracking open my studies.  There will always be time to study, but I will never get time back with my Dad.  I’m so thankful that I focused on what was important for those days.

The MW program is a priority for me and will be for the next several years.  But it won’t always be my main focus.  Maybe this attitude will be my downfall, but maybe it will help me succeed.  In any case, I will give the program my best effort.  For my Dad – and for myself. 

Me & Dad ❤

The First 100 Days (MW Marathon Lap 2)

I’m just getting started on my MW studies and have found that (so far!) the most complicated part of being an MW student is explaining to others how the program works!  There aren’t required classes to attend or mandatory assignments to complete.  No assigned textbooks, set schedule, or instructors.  It is truly a self-study feat that will take around 3 to 7 (or more!) years and cost thousands.  So, I completely understand why I get some weird looks and lots of questions from friends and relatives outside the wine world – and from a handful of those inside the wine world as well. 😉

Thankfully, the IMW provides several opportunities throughout the year for more structured learning.  There is a weeklong seminar for first year MW students (we’re referred to as “S1” for “stage 1” – which reminds me of being labeled a “1L” in law school).  S1 students can chose from one of three seminars throughout the world: Austria, Australia – and my beloved Washington state!  What are the chances?!  The seminar takes place in February, so I’ll go into details about that week in an upcoming post. 

S1 students also have optional coursework assignments to submit for feedback (which I’ll obviously do, and which obviously doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone reading this).  And there are “course days” to help students work on their theory and tasting techniques and, again, are optional to attend.  Course days take place all over the world – for me in the US, it looks like Napa and New York would be the closest locations. However, none have been scheduled . . . yet.

After finding out I was accepted into the program in September, I celebrated by spending a few heavenly, study-free days at a spa in Arizona.  And on the day after I returned home (which was exactly 100 days before the end of the year) – I hit the books.  So, I put together a “First 100 Days” schedule.

The phrase “First 100 Days” usually applies to a politician’s first 100 days in office.  It started in 1933 after Franklin D. Roosevelt made sweeping changes during his first few months as President of the United States – including getting the ball rolling on abolishing Prohibition.  Since then, U.S. presidents are often measured by how ambitious and successful they are in their first 100 days in office.

Obviously, I’m not a U.S. President. Nonetheless, I thought having a “First 100 Days” plan for my MW pursuit would be a great way to start off the program.  So, I created what I intended to be an ambitious, but realistic plan, to accomplish the following:

            Review of Viticulture and Winemaking.  It’s been a while since my Viti/Vini unit of the WSET Diploma so I need a thorough review of these areas.  And these are two of the four possible subjects that might show up on my S1 exam in June. I picked up ‘Vines and Vinification’ by Sally Easton, MW with the aim of reading it and putting it all into an (you guessed it!) outline that I’ll use as a base for future studies.  (BTW – I cannot recommend this book highly enough!  It’s super organized, detailed, and easy to follow).

Hands down the best book on viti & vini that I’ve found!

            Revisit Classic Wines (Blind and Open Label).  I drafted a list of around 50 wines with the goal of sitting down with 3 or so a week and sketching out tasting notes and answers to mock MW questions.  I also intended to research the wines’ tech sheets and use these to make links from viti and vini to what’s in the glass.

            Weekly Essay Practice. Part of the S1 exam (called “S1A” for “stage 1 assessment”) is based on past MW questions.  These are all published on the IMW website.  I tackled several in preparation for the entrance exam and wanted to keep up the momentum by researching and writing one per week.

So that WAS my “First 100 Days” plan . . . and you know what they say about the best laid plans. 😉  Needless to say, I’ve pivoted from this for a couple of good reasons:

Reason #1 is the launch of Élevage Wine Coaching with my good friend Amber LeBeau! Amber and I were in the same study group – meeting virtually every week with about 10 other WSET Diploma students from around the world.  We started in Summer 2020 and, in addition to studying D3, we became an incredible support network for one another. 

After completing the Diploma, Amber & I realized how fortunate we were to have had each other and our study group for support and encouragement.  So, we created Élevage Wine Coaching with the aim of providing students study support and helping them maintain their enjoyment of wine throughout their studies.  We’re just getting our venture off the ground – and I cannot wait to see where it goes!

My new business to help wine students succeed: Elevage Wine Coaching!

Reason #2 is that I realized I needed to ease into the MW program more . . . easily.  By trying to do all of these things right out of the gate in my “First 100 Days” – I wasn’t doing any of them particularly well.  I’m on my first steps of a very long program, pacing myself is key.

My “New and Improved First 100 Days” plan is a thorough focus on Viti and Vini review.  After I’ve completed the book, I’ll get on with blind tasting practice and essay writing in January.  I’m thankful for all that “extra” prep work I did for the entrance exam earlier this year – turns out my 40 or so outlines for past MW questions were definitely not a waste of time!

I fully acknowledge that in a few months I’m going to have to juggle many areas of study for the S1A. But that’s not right now.  The MW program is going to test my ability to focus on the “right now” instead of “what’s ahead.”  I worked a lot on practicing mindfulness at the spa in Arizona.  And it was pretty fucking easy at that time because . . . I was at a SPA IN ARIZONA!!  Keeping mindful in the real world is a bit more of a challenge.

But I’m up for challenges.

Relaxing Pre-MW Study Days, Being Mindful & Doing Nothing

“Welcome to the Program!” (MW Marathon Lap 1)

I got the news last week that I was admitted into the MW program! So (whew!) all that effort I put into my application and the entrance exam was worth it. 🙂

Since receiving this email, my feelings have been a blend of excited with a sense of accomplishment and a dash of nervousness. There’s a well-known saying amongst first year law students: “Look to your left, look to your right, because one of you won’t be here by the end of the year.”  And while this wasn’t an accurate statement about my law school experience, I suspect it might be about my MW experience.  More people have gone into space than have successfully passed the MW exam.  Although that exam is a couple years away, that’s still a rather daunting statistic for us Stage 1 MW students. 

When I started law school, I knew the bar exam was looming after graduation and that I would need to pass it in order to become an actual lawyer. Likewise, I know that there’s a Stage 1 Assessment exam (probably in June 2022), then the Stage 2 MW exam, and finally a 10,000-word research paper to complete in order for me to become an actual Master of Wine.

However, I’m not going to worry about all that right now.  I’m going to approach the MW program like I’m training for a race: I’ll keep the end goal in sight – but I’m going to focus my attention on the next step in front of me. 

Truth be told, I have never particularly enjoyed running.  However, there were a few years in my life when I was a runner.  It was good for blowing off steam and stress and many a flashcard was reviewed while putting one foot painfully in front of the other.  But I didn’t start off running a marathon – I started with a program called Couch to 5k.

The Couch to 5K program (or C25K) basically takes a non-runner from sitting on their ass to running a 5k (3.1 miles) in 9ish weeks.  The program starts off VERY slowly – something like 20 minutes total with alternating running one minute and walking for 90 seconds.  But by easing into it – you’re better able to avoid shin splints, burnout and aching knees.  And by breaking down the larger goal of 5K into smaller, manageable sized steps it made the whole process a lot less painful – mentally and physically.

So I’ll take the MW program one step at a time.  Sometimes I’ll be running fast, pain free and (hopefully) with that elusive runner’s high. But other times I’ll be walking . . . or even limping along.  And there will be times when I stop moving altogether so I can catch my breath.

But for right now, I’m going to treat these next couple of weeks as doing some really enjoyable stretching before my first laps.  I want to enjoy this moment – because I know I’ve got a long run ahead of me.

Me after finishing my first 5K – The Polar Bear Plunge in Seattle, WA

Is it Time for the Wine Media Conference to Actively Plant New Varieties?

Recently, Bordeaux shocked the wine world by permitting six new grape varieties within the AOC.  Climate change and rising temperatures prompted the region to re-evaluate continuing to rely solely on traditional Bordeaux varieties.  There was increasing concern that with hotter and drier weather, traditional varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot would no longer be able to “deliver the quality, characteristics and volume required for sustainability in coming decades.”  The newly admitted varieties are more adaptable to the changing environment and the hope is that they will help the Bordeaux blend evolve well into the future.

In 2018, the Wine Bloggers Conference became the Wine Media Conference

The Wine Bloggers Conference was founded in 2008, and three years ago changed its name to the Wine Media Conference (WMC) “to reflect the reality of what our attendees were already doing: communicating about wine on blogs, social media, and traditional media.”  After a vinvestigation of this year’s WMC attendee list, a handful of podcasters and YouTubers can be found, but the vast majority of attendees were bloggers.  So, while the name of the conference may have changed, the blend remains pretty much the same.

The death of the wine blog has been discussed for years, but the fact of the matter is: people consume information differently now than they did in 2008.  The blog is being replaced with other forms of media like podcasts, YouTube or TikTok videos, and social media micro-blogs.  And while this is not nearly as drastic as climate change, the WMC needs to address the challenges the blog is facing in this changing environment.

The Wine Media Conference should actively plant new varieties.

What does actively plant mean?

Like a vineyard, the conference should be nurtured if it is going to grow and thrive into the future.  This means letting potential attendees know about the conference in advance of the event.  The conference host Zephyr Wine Conferences posted frequently throughout the spring on Instagram, and I posted about the conference back in May, but for the most part – social media was dead silent about the WMC until it was actually underway. 

And while there was the usual flurry of posts during the event, this is too late for people to sign up for the current conference – and too early for them to sign up for the following year.  For the WMC to be successful into the future, it ideally should have continual promotion from as many voices as possible . . . and not just during the event.

What new varieties should be planted?

Bordeaux chose new varieties that would help the region continue to produce wine given the changing climate.  The WMC should choose new varieties that will help the event continue to champion wineries and wine regions given the changing ways in which people consume information. New varieties to consider include podcasters, vloggers, social media mavens and yes – even the dreaded Instagram “I” word. 

I can feel dozens of eyeballs rolling right now, but here are the facts:

Instagram has one billion active users globally, and half of these users (500 million!) are on the site every day.

Instagram users spend an average of 30 minutes per day on the site.

81% of people use Instagram to help research products and services.

To be clear, I’m not talking about vapid Instagram influencers who have absolutely nothing to say about the bottle of wine they’re holding (which is often out of focus because it’s not the main purpose of the photo).  I’m referring to the influencers whose feed might be predominately sponsored posts and selfies, but they also have a desire – and a significant reach – to support wineries and wine regions. And just because they’re showing this support differently than traditional wine bloggers, doesn’t mean they’re doing it wrong . . . or that they aren’t media.  Media is defined as “the means of communication, as radio and television, newspapers, magazines, and the internet, that reach or influence people widely.” So yes, influencers are “media.” 

Interestingly, the WMC sessions I attended that were focused on Instagram and personal branding were practically standing room only.  Both sessions also nearly went over their allocated timeframe with numerous questions from attendees – a clear indication that bloggers are interested in learning how to use or improve their social media reach.  This is something that influencers could help with . . . if we’d open the door to them. 

Twenty or so years ago, wine blogging was just getting started.  For many years, wine bloggers have been treated as lesser than, or at least not as professional as, “traditional” wine writers.  Now that bloggers have an established space in wine media – why not open the door to other emerging “non-traditional” voices?  By actively planting these new varieties, together we can all bring more attention and new consumers to the wine industry.

The Masters of Wine Marathon: The Entrance Exam

In my last blog post, I detailed the Master of Wine application process up to the actual entrance exam.  The Master of Wine entrance exam is the final hurdle to apply for the program – consisting of a 90 minute theory section and a 90 minute practical (tasting) section.  Applicants can attempt either section first and the sections can be taken on different days or both hammered out on the same day.

Here’s a little more detail on what the theory exam looks like: (Richard Hemming also covers this on the IMW website – and clearly he’s more knowledgeable about this than I am!)

Theory Section:

Applicants have 90 minutes to answer one question.  The question needs to be answered in an essay format and should be presented in a logical and factual manner. Each point made should be supported by evidence and examples from the world of wine. Logic, facts and evidence . . . as a former lawyer, this is music to my ears! In other words, this is not a brain dump of everything you know about a subject matter. There’s no set word count – but Richard Hemming gives an example of somewhere between 700 to 1,200 words (for point of reference – this blog post is about 1,400 words)

The entrance exam questions are past MW exam questions – or at least very, very similar.  The MW exam covers five topics:

  • Viticulture
  • Vinification & Pre-Bottling Procedures
  • Handling of Wine
  • Business of Wine
  • Contemporary Issues

However, the entrance exam will only cover four of these.  I’ve heard that the “Contemporary Issues” isn’t included on the entrance exam because the IMW wants to test applicants on their technical knowledge for admittance.  Not sure if this is true or not, but it does make sense.

MW exam questions from the past 20 years (!!) can be found on the IMW website. For the entrance exam, applicants will choose one question from three options.  The past two years’ entrance exams are also published on the IMW website (seriously – how fantastic is this transparency?!) Actual entrance exam questions change every day during the application process – smart move on the IMW’s part to prevent collusion amongst applicants. Which I’d like to think doesn’t happen at this level, but then I remember what happened with the Court of Master Sommeliers.

Of the two exams, theory was the one I was most nervous about, so I spent most of my time preparing for this section.  My “strategy” for this hurdle was three-fold:

1.  Review Past MW Exam Questions From 2015 Onward. The idea of reviewing 20 years worth of questions was just too daunting and seemed like overkill for the entrance exam . . . and that’s coming from me – the QUEEN of overkill.  So, I decided to focus on the past 6 years worth of questions. Interestingly, there does seem to be a number of topics that come up on the regular – yes, I’m looking at you sulfite levels.

2.  Focus Most of My Preparation on Q1 and Q4.  Based on my research, Viticulture (Q1) and The Business of Wine (Q4) come up as an option on every entrance exam – with Vinification (Q2) & Wine Handling (Q3) rotating as the topic of the third option.  As a result, most of my research and prep work was done on past Viti and Wine Business questions.  And while I didn’t completely ignore Q2 & Q3, since these are already my weaker spots, I didn’t spend precious hours spinning my wheels on these subjects for the entrance exam.  If admitted to the program, I figure I’ll have several years to figure out all things Vini and Wine Handling.  Well, probably not ALL things . . .

3.  Outline (!!) the Main Points for Each Topic.  Outlines have worked for me for over 25 years now, and they’re the basis for this blog – so I can’t stop now!  For the entrance exam, I outlined 40+ questions and did a cursory review of about a dozen others. The whole process made think about wine in different ways, like: what should vineyard managers do to prepare for a labor shortage? Are supermarkets a positive force for mainstream wine consumers? Does pale colored rosé mean that the wine is better quality? 

For those of you doing the math at home, yes – I had to answer only ONE question and I prepared for about 50.  However, this process was by no means a waste of time because if I DO get in – the Stage 1 Assessment exam for MW students is also based on past MW questions.  So, having already reviewed and outlined several of these questions – I’ll at least have a start for my studies.  And if I don’t get in . . . well, I learned a lot of interesting things about wine.

Alrighty, that takes care of the Theory portion of the entrance exam.  Now let’s look at the Tasting section, which Richard Hemming also briefly covers on the IMW website.

Tasting Section:

Applicants have 90 minutes to answer a series of questions about four wines.  The entrance exam wines are released on the IMW website prior to the exam – so, obviously, the goal is not to simply identify the wines.  Applicants can either purchase and taste these wines or do a “dry note” based off of tech sheets, etc. 

Also, this is NOT writing a WSET style tasting note (Halle-fucking-lujah!)  This type of note might help you draw your conclusions – but the note itself is not what the IMW is looking for.  Historically, questions that have been asked include: identify variety and origin, discuss quality with reference to winemaking techniques, comment on the method of production and who would buy this wine.  Truth be told, I much prefer this approach for tasting notes as opposed to the regurgitation of five aroma descriptors and rote applicable of BLIC. 

My strategy for how to prepare for the tasting (aka practical) section of the entrance exam was also three-fold:

1.  Attend the Online MW Intro Course.  The IMW ran several introductory online live webinars in the months leading up to the entrance exams and I HIGHLY recommend anyone considering the program sign up for one as soon as the dates are released.  The moderators walk attendees through the entire program, the application process and go through a practice tasting “MW style.”  After the course, I had a better understanding of what the IMW is looking for on the entrance exam and what evidence would help “prove” my conclusions of variety, origin, quality, etc.

2.  Practice a Ton of Open Label Tasting.  Since the entrance exam isn’t blind, doing lots of blind tasting as prep work wasn’t going to be overly beneficial to me.  Instead, I practiced writing “MW style” tasting notes a couple times a week and answered hypothetical questions about what’s in the glass – origin, production methods, consumer appeal, etc.  This helped me get into a groove with the IMW way of analyzing a wine.

3.  Learn the Shit out of the Wines.  The 2021 entrance exam wines were:

  • Wine 1: 2019 Riesling Spätlese, Mosel, Germany (approx. £15/$20)
  • Wine 2: 2019 Riesling (dry), Alsace, France (approx. £17/$23)
  • Wine 3: Pale Cream Sherry, Jerez, Spain (approx. £13/$18)
  • Wine 4: Dry Amontillado Sherry, Jerez, Spain (approx. £22/$30)
Entrance Exam Wines (minus the Pale Cream Sherry)

For the life of me, I couldn’t find a Pale Cream Sherry anywhere (perhaps because over 90% of these wines are exported to the UK!)  So I did a dry note for this one, but purchased the other three wines. In addition to tasting the wines (over & over), I also tracked down tech sheets, researched what these styles typically tasted like and how they were produced, and also read up on popularity (or lack thereof in this case) amongst mainstream consumers for these wine styles.

The Actual Entrance Exam!

I opted to get the tasting exam out of the way first and then take theory the following week.  The IMW also had a mock exam, not necessarily to test your knowledge, but to get familiar with their online system.  This was quite helpful – anything to remove exam day stress is key! 

Without going into too much detail – for both exams, I’m happy with how much (and how) I prepared.  The IMW will release the entrance exam questions in a few months, so I’m not going to jump the gun and disclose them here.  In looking back, I put in a LOT of effort just to gain acceptance to the program.  But I wasn’t going to start off half-assed.  I wanted to give it my best shot – and I did.

And now I just wait . . . I’ll find out in early September if I’ve been admitted to the program.  Either way – I’ll let you know!