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).
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!
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.