Becoming a Master of Wine

September 8th 2015

In week one, as a keen first-year student, I was told the Master of Wine course was the ‘Everest’ of wine. Having been to Everest Base Camp two years earlier, I thought, yes, shouldn’t be too bad. I should’ve realised they meant the top of Everest – 3000 meters higher, without oxygen. And the course would be as draining financially, as an expedition to the top of Everest. Perhaps I should have been happy with Base Camp but less than 24 hours after receiving the call saying I made it, I can look down from being on the top of the world (figuratively, in this case), and say yes, it’s a pretty good view.

While the certificate will bear my name, there are dozens of people who have been my sherpas, guiding me and supporting me. So, here’s my roll call with thoughtful detail.

Ben Stuart: Thanks for putting up with me, even though it’s sometimes called the divorce course, we managed to move hemisphere, buy a house, get married, have a child all in the time it took to do this bloody thing. It’s over. You can have your wife back now.

Mum and dad: Yes, you did warn me before I embarked upon it that I had said I would never do the MW and ought to be reminded of it but when do I ever listen? Thanks for literally holding the baby while I spent hours in the archives in Chalons.

Uncle Phil. It’s been a while and you probably don’t realise but thanks for the financial backing. This course wasn’t cheap. I could’ve probably gone back and studied medicine or law for the same price. My future earning potential would probably be a lot higher too. But I don’t suppose you get to tour lots of vineyards and drink fine wine when you’re studying medicine or law!

The Chalmers family: It all started in a ski lodge in Dinner Plain, Victoria. I drank too much, had a great time, then felt a bit woozy, left early, but still remembered enough to inspire me to pursue wine. I’m so proud of what you’ve achieved too and can’t wait to celebrate with some obscure variety that you’re growing – or a bucket wine!!!

Simon Wrightson For giving me my first job in the wine trade, supporting me on my WSET Diploma, and taking me on my first trip to Champagne – was this inspiration for my Research Paper? Who knows? Must drink a glass of ‘shampoo’ with you next time I’m in Blighty.

My mentors:
Patricia Stefanowicz MW
Jo Ahearne MW
Steve ‘Denny Crane’ Bennett MW for getting me over the tasting line. Thanks from Alan…!
Steve Charters MW For your insight and wise advice during the Research Paper process
All the NZ MWs who put on tasting for us keen student types
And Sunday dinner host Andy Reding, who guided me through annual reports and EBITDAs for the business of wine paper.

Fellow students:
First-year London buddies. You know who you are – most of you are MWs already, you bright young things.

Richard Hemming MW: For being a friend and essay note-swapper across different hemispheres. And for posting your journey on Jancis – always nice to know the frustration was not unique to me. Delighted that we can both finish the course together!

Lynnette Hudson: The highs, the lows, your dog still hates me.

Matt Deller: For giving me that last push over the tasting line. And now, I hear you have finally passed your tasting too. Only a Research Paper to go! Only, she says, three years later.

The Napa trip girls – Michelle Cherrutti-Kowal MW, Claudia Schug – for the winery visit and the accommodation in Sonoma at your dad’s place. And then I forgot my trousers. Thanks for posting them!

Caroline Hermann and Cerina de Jongh. The residential weeks were much more bearable when I had somone to laugh/bitch and moan with rather than stewing on my own in my room freaking out about how much there was to learn!

Dan and Gemma Coward for the friendliest accommodation during exam time in Sydney although I don’t thank you for helping me have a slight hangover for tasting paper 3.

Research paper helpers
Caroline Henry: for your support, particulary in the archives in Chalons when my French speaking skills weren’t up to scratch! Looking forward to reading your new book!
Gillian Bouzy and Veronique Foureur at Moet & Chandon – thanks for offering me your time and archives.
Epernay mediatheque team: for opening the archives even though the library didn’t normally open on that day. Super helpful people and the sources were invaluable too.
David Menival: For your economic insight. I still have one of your books. Must post it back! It’s on its way.
Dr Wendy Parr: Thanks for being so generous with your time. While the dissertation title didn’t get over the line – you and I were both surprised– I was delighted to get to know you and remain ever so grateful for you giving your advice and expertise.

And to all of those who have helped me along the way and I have failed to mention, thank you.

Posted in - Blog Posts on September 8th 2015 4 Comments

As of now (4) people have had something to say...

  • Alex - Reply

    8 September, 2015 at 12:44 am

    Rebecca you should change this part “I’m also a Master of Wine student. Having passed the theory and practical sections of the exam, the Research Paper is now the last hurdle. ” in your “About Me” 🙂

    I’m a humble Certified Sommelier from CMS, maybe some day I’ll join you and the other MWs at the ‘Everest’ of wine 🙂

    Congratulations on your enormous achievement.

  • Adon - Reply

    8 September, 2015 at 3:50 am

    Congratulations Rebecca. You deserve the recognition and applause. What champagne did you pop open to celebrate?

  • marisa d’vari - Reply

    8 September, 2015 at 4:32 pm

    Congratulations! It must feel so great …

  • Cherie Agnew - Reply

    29 September, 2015 at 1:31 am

    Congratulations Rebecca. An inspirational achievement and it’s awesome that we have another Kiwi MW. Well done.

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