Wine's academic elitism

The Institute of Masters of Wine maintains that the hard-to-achieve academic qualification is intended to encourage the understanding of wine at all levels

ANDREW J. LINN

The topic of wine can cause observers to use prefaces like 'anti-wine snobs', 'keep it simple', 'don't use fancy descriptions', with a long etcetera. So why does a wine lover decide to become a Master of Wine (MW)?

The Institute of Masters of Wine maintains that the hard-to-achieve academic qualification is intended to encourage the understanding of wine at all levels, but the accomplishment of being allowed to use the initials MW after one's name is so difficult that it is surprising anyone bothers.

WINE OF THE WEEK

  • Viñas del Vero Pinot Noir

  • Although it seems everyone wants to make wine with the Pinot Noir grape, it has a reputation of being difficult and it is not always a success story However, this very agreeable rosado is not only well-priced but also agreeable drinking. From Gonzalez Byass's bodega in the Somontano region. Around seven euros.

Applications are open to anyone, provided they are in the wine trade. There is a series of entrance papers before the main exam that can take two years and cost around €12,000 in fees and charges, on top of which there are the wines to be bought for tastings at home.

Those in the trade have an advantage as they will be tasting wines regularly, but what about a humble waiter in a restaurant who is aiming for promotion? He or she has neither the time nor the money to fulfil the conditions of the exam.

The net outcome is that MWs will not be found working in restaurants and bars. They will be found in wine producers and distributors, so the qualification cannot be representative of the trade as the MW Institute claims.

If the exam is aimed at improving the understanding of wine and is not designed to be difficult to pass - another claim - then the figures tell a different story. There are 460 MWs worldwide. Spain has seven.