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What's a Master of Wine?

There are fewer than four hundred Masters of Wine in the world. The exam’s a tough one to pass, according to those who have sat it. The exam is in three parts, with theory and practical components and all candidates are also required to write a research paper. Candidates must pass all three components. All exam candidates and members of the Institute of Masters of Wine have to sign the institute’s code of conduct and follow its rules.

Masters of Wine often travel for their work, as they’re invited to visit vineyards and taste different wines. You may think that tasting wines would be an ideal job, but after tasting (and spitting out) up to 70 wines a session, your palette would be rather jaded. It could even put you off drinking wine at home (although if you’re an inveterate wine drinker, that’s hardly likely!).

For us in the wine trade, it’s extremely important to have a Master of Wine as a consultant. Without one, we’d make mistakes.

A Master of Wine is not a sommelier, necessarily, although one person could, in theory, be both. Let’s explore the differences.

A Sommelier’s Job

A sommelier typically works in a restaurant that specialises in fine dining. Sommeliers may be male or female, although in the past it was solely a male profession. There are fewer Master Sommeliers than Masters of Wine, as there are less than 300 in the world. It takes years to prepare for the tough examination and the pass rate isn’t high.

Once a person has passed the exam, all sorts of doors open. Job opportunities are not limited to being a wine waiter. Master Sommeliers can move on to become winemakers, restaurant owners, education directors, importers and so on.

One of the main roles of the sommelier in a restaurant is to advise diners on the best pairings of wines and food. That’s why they’re invaluable in fine-dining restaurants.

A Master of Wine

It would be unusual for a Master of Wine to work in a restaurant. Masters of Wine have to take a four-day test of wine knowledge, it isn’t just about tasting wines! The exam takes at least three years to prepare for. Qualified Masters of Wine can teach, judge wines in competitions, write about wine and act as consultants.

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