MW Exam 2017: the wines that featured

We bring you the wines that candidates had to identify under timed conditions in last week’s Master of Wine exam.

The Master of Wine (MW) exam consists of two components: a Theory and Practical element, with the latter comprising three blind wine tastings on three consecutive mornings

The wine selection is always of interest to potential or existing MW students and the wider trade, because it gives one an idea how broadly you have to taste before sitting the exam. The test does normally contain a mix of the great and famous wines of the world as well as some of the most obscure. And, looking through this year’s paper, you will notice there are quite a lot of wines from the classic regions of Italy and France, such as Chablis and Chinon or Chianti Classico.

Although the final tasting paper – Paper 3 – does, in contrast, contain a number of little-known wines, don’t let that put you off attempting the exam, because few candidates would be expected to correctly identify exactly where these samples came from.

Indeed, the students aren’t actually asked to specify the origin of wines 4, 5 or 6 in the final tasting paper, because the emphasis is on correctly assessing the character of the wines, which include an orange wine from Western Australia, a Riesling from New Zealand and a Gewürztraminer from California. The examiners always deliberately choose a few wines you might never have tasted before so they can see how accurately you identify the key features of a wine, from the fruit character to the alcohol level. If you knew what the wine was, then it’s likely you would also know what the traits should be, and so your responses could be a reflection of your knowledge, rather than tasting ability.

Despite the difficult nature of this vinous test, over 150 students sat the exams last week in three parts of the world – tests were held in London, San Francisco and Sydney, from 6 June to 9 June.

The Master of Wine (MW) exam consists of two components: a Theory and Practical element, with the latter comprising three blind wine tastings on three consecutive mornings.

Each tasting exam (dubbed Paper 1, 2 and 3) contains 12 wines, and a series of questions regarding where they come from, what grapes they are made from, as well as how they are made, where they might be sold, and other things, like their abvs and sugar content.

Aside from the challenge of identifying the wines, and then answering questions about them – which involves carefully structuring a sensibly argued response – one has to be quick: candidates are given 2 hours and 15 minutes to complete the paper, giving them 11 minutes per wine.

Historically, Paper 1 has covered still white wines; Paper 2 has covered still red wines; and Paper 3 (traditionally known as ‘the mixed bag’) has covered a wide range including sparkling wines, fortified wines, and rosés.

The wines from this year’s Practical Paper are shown over the following pages, followed by the questions this year’s candidates were asked about them.

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