Frequently Asked Questions
On this page you will find answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the Institute, its membership and its global activities.
Your Questions Answered
Click on the questions below to find out more about the Institute's work, what it means to be a Master of Wine and how someone becomes one.
- What is the Institute of Masters of Wine? What does it do?
- What is a Master of Wine?
- How many Masters of Wine are there? In how many countries?
- How do I become a Master of Wine?
- What are the benefits of being a Master of Wine?
- How do I check to see if someone really is a Master of Wine?
- How can I contact a Master of Wine?
- How many Masters of Wine are women?
- How many Masters of Wine are based outside the UK?
- When and how did the Institute start?
- Where is the Institute based? Why is it in England?
- What is the structure of the Master of Wine exam? Can one be a part-qualified MW?
- Who are the examiners?
- How often can someone sit the exam?
- Is the Institute of Masters of Wine study programme full time?
- How long does the Institute's study programme take to complete?
- Where can I study to become a Master of Wine and how many classes do I need to attend each year?
- How much does it cost to study in the Institute's programme?
- What is the language of the study programme at the Institute?
- How do I apply for the Institute of Masters of Wine study programme?
- What are the prerequisites for the study programme?
- Where can I learn about wine if the Master of Wine qualification is not for me?
- Are Institute tastings open to the public?
- How many students are there in the Institute's Study Programme? From how many countries?
- Who was the youngest Master of Wine? And the oldest?
What is the Institute of Masters of Wine? What does it do?
Through its Members and activities, the Institute of Masters of Wine promotes excellence, interaction and learning, across all sectors of the global wine community.
What is a Master of Wine?
A Master of Wine (MW) is someone who has demonstrated, by way of rigorous examination, a thorough knowledge of all aspects of wine and an ability to communicate clearly. A Master of Wine will actively encourage others in the pursuit of knowledge as well as seek to bring wine communities together.
How many Masters of Wine are there? In how many countries?
Since 1953 a total of 391 men and women have passed the Institute's exams and become Masters of Wine. There are currently 341 Masters of Wine, living in 25 different countries across five continents.
How do I become a Master of Wine?
To become a Master of Wine, you need to have passed the Stage 1 Assessment, the Theory and Practical components of the MW Examination and a Research Paper and have signed up to - and abided by - the Institute's Code of Conduct. Please visit the About Us section of the website for more information.
What are the benefits of being a Master of Wine?
Perhaps the most important is membership of the Institute itself: being part of the global community of Masters of Wine, each of whom has demonstrated the highest knowledge and ability in the art, science and business of wine. Masters of Wine are equipped with a unique range of practical and theoretical knowledge which enables them to work across all disciplines within the wine industry, from winemakers, oenologists and viticulturists through to shippers, retailers and writers.
How do I check to see if someone really is a Master of Wine?
The best way to do this is to check to see if they are listed as a Master of Wine on our website. You can also contact the Institute on +44 (0)20 7383 9130.
How can I contact a Master of Wine?
Many Masters of Wine give their contact details in the Meet the Masters of Wine section. If you need to reach someone who does not provide a contact, please use the "Email xxx at home/at work" link within their profile. Your message and contact details will be sent to them directly via the browser. The Institute does not give out members' details without their prior authorisation.
How many Masters of Wine are women?
There are currently 111 female Masters of Wine. 116 women in total have passed the exams and joined the Institute. The Study Programme and Examination have always been open to both women and men, and Sarah Morphew Stephen MW became the first female Master of Wine in 1970. 1979 was the first year that equal numbers of women and men passed, and in 2001 more women than men became MWs for the first time. In 2014 and 2015 there were more women than men among the new Masters of Wine.
How many Masters of Wine are based outside the UK?
There are 135 Masters of Wine living and working outside the UK, the vast majority of whom are not British. Furthermore, the 206 UK-based Masters of Wine include a great deal of diversity as many of them are originally from Africa, North and South America, Australasia, Asia, and elsewhere in Europe.
When and how did the Institute start?
In 1953, the Vintners' Company, based in London, resurrected the qualification Master of Wine by setting an exam to measure professional excellence in the wine trade. Six of the 21 people sitting the exam passed it, and became Masters of Wine. Two years later, in 1955, these individuals founded the Institute of Masters of Wine.
Where is the Institute based? Why is it in England?
The Institute's head office is in London, although it runs its education and examination programmes and events worldwide. London has historically been one of the world's principal wine trading centres and was, therefore, a natural place for the Institute to start up and flourish. Today, its membership and activities are truly international.
What is the structure of the Master of Wine exam? Can one be a part-qualified MW?
There are three parts to the exam. The Practical exam comprises three papers of 12 wines each, tasted blind. The Theory exam comprises five papers on the Production and Handling of Wine (two papers), the Business of Wine, and Contemporary Issues. The Research Paper is a 10,000 word report based on original research. To become a Master of Wine, one has to pass everything. There is no such thing as a part-qualified Master of Wine.
Who are the examiners?
Each paper is examined by a panel of Examiners, headed by a Panel Chair. The members of the panels are Masters of Wine and other senior members of the wine trade from around the world. The Institute also has an external academic adviser.
How often can someone sit the exam?
A candidate who has participated in the residential seminar in the year of the examination may sit the Practical and/or Theory parts of the exam a maximum of five times within six years. Both parts must be sat until at least one is passed. However, the candidate must pass at least part of the exam (i.e. Practical or Theory) within the first three attempts.
Is the Institute of Masters of Wine study programme full time?
The study programme is principally self-study and is not full time. The academic year begins in mid-September and finishes at the end of May. Students participate in a one-week residential seminar during the academic year, may also attend course days, and get the support of a Master of Wine mentor. They also submit regular written assignments for marking and feedback. The residential seminars are offered on three continents: Europe, Australasia and North America.
How long does the Institute's study programme take to complete?
The study programme takes a minimum of three years to complete, although it may take longer. Students may sit the Theory and Practical exam after the end of the second year, and then submit their Research Paper in the following June should they pass both the Practical and Theory parts of the Exam.
Where can I study to become a Master of Wine and how many classes do I need to attend each year?
The main element of the course is self-directed study. There are residential seminars in Adelaide, Australia; Napa, USA; Bordeaux, France; Rust, Austria; and Berkshire, UK. These seminars normally last one week and attendance is compulsory to be eligible to sit the examination. There are also centrally marked assignments and optional course days. The examination is held over four days, usually in June, in three locations: London, UK; Napa, USA; and Sydney, Australia.
How much does it cost to study in the Institute's programme?
The annual study programme and exam fees are listed in the 'Study Programme Applications' section of the website. Candidates also need to factor in their travel costs and wine costs for their own tasting sessions.
What is the language of the study programme at the Institute?
The study programme is conducted in English. The Institute will try to provide candidates with a mentor who reads their language, although this may not always be possible. Candidates must write the Practical exam in English and the Research Paper must be submitted in English, but candidates may arrange for translation from their mother tongue prior to submission. The Theory exams may be written in any language. The Institute will arrange for translation and will subsidise the cost.
How do I apply for the Institute of Masters of Wine study programme?
Applications for the study programme can be submitted every year in June. They must be supported by a referee, who is either a Master of Wine or a senior member of the wine trade. Applications are done via an online form from this website and applicants will be informed if they have been accepted on to the programme in September each year.
What are the prerequisites for the study programme?
The Master of Wine qualification is a professional one. For that reason, the Institute recommends that applicants hold the Wine and Spirit Education Trust Diploma, or another wine qualification of at least the same level - for example a bachelor or masters degree in oenology. Applicants are also required to have at least three years of professional experience within the wine industry.
Where can I learn about wine if the Master of Wine qualification is not for me?
There are numerous organisations that offer wine courses, depending on whether your interest is as a consumer or a collector, or someone wanting to follow a specialised wine tasting, oenology or viticulture course. Visit the Links section of the website for more information.
Are Institute tastings open to the public?
Institute tastings and events are principally provided as professional development opportunities for Masters of Wine, students of the Institute and other members of the wine trade. However, most Institute events now offer a limited number of places for members of the public with a series interest in fine wine. Visit the Events section of the website for details of forthcoming events.
How many students are there in the Institute's Study Programme? From how many countries?
There currently over 321 students in the Institute's Study Programme, from 36 countries.
Who was the youngest Master of Wine? And the oldest?
The youngest Master of Wine was Steve Bennett MW, who passed the Examination in 1994 and became a Member at the age of 25. The oldest MW became a Member at the age of 62.