Master of Wine (MW) is a qualification (not an academic degree) issued by The Institute of Masters of Wine in the United Kingdom. The MW qualification is generally regarded in the wine industry as one of the highest standards of professional knowledge.
Before enrolling in the MW study programme, prospective students must hold an advanced wine qualification, at least Diploma level from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust, or an appropriately high level sommelier certificate, such as Advanced Sommelier from the Court of Master Sommeliers. Also, prospective students need to have a minimum of three years' professional work experience in the global wine community. Applicants must submit a basic essay, a tasting paper, a brief statement explaining their interest in becoming a Master of Wine, and a reference to support their application, from a Master of Wine or another senior wine trade professional.
The study programme is made up of three stages. Stage 1 is the foundation year and gives students the opportunity to meet Masters of Wine and fellow students in both professional and social settings. Stage 1 assessment includes six pieces of work evaluated during the year, culminating in an exam that takes place in early June. The exam involves one tasting paper and two essays. Stage 2 is a crucial time for students and can be very intense. Students must provide three pieces of work for assessment during the Stage 2 year, and must pass both the Theory and Practical parts of the June MW Examination. Stage 3 consists of writing a sole-authorship research paper of between 6,000 and 10,000 words in length on a topic of the student's choice. The qualification process takes at least three years to complete.
Until 1983, the examination was limited to United Kingdom wine importers, merchants and retailers. The first non-UK Master of Wine was awarded in 1988. As of March 2021, there are 416 MWs in the world, living in 31 countries. The MWs are spread across 5 continents, wherein the UK has 208 MWs, US has 45 MWs, Australia has 24 MWs and France has 16 MWs. There are 9 countries with 1 MW each on the list.
Today, members hold a range of occupations including winemakers, viticulturists, winemaking consultants, wine writers and journalists, wine educators, and wine service, restaurant and hotel management. In addition, many are involved in the purchasing, importing, distribution, sales and marketing of wine.
Notable Masters of Wine include: