The MW Examination

The Masters of Wine Examination was first held in 1953 and has been set every year since. It is accepted to be the hardest test of knowledge and ability in the world of wine. It is designed to test the breadth and depth of a candidate's theoretical knowledge and practical skills in the art, science and business of wine. The standard of the exam remains as rigorous today as it was in 1953, when only six out of the 21 candidates passed. Each year the questions are set by a panel of MWs and marked by MWs and leading figures in the world of wine. 

Structure of the Exam

The exam currently consists of three parts: 

Theory - four three-hour question papers on viticulture, winemaking, the business of wine and contemporary  issues.

Practical - three 12-wine blind tastings, each lasting two and a quarter hours, in which wines must be
assessed for variety, origin, winemaking, quality and style.  Practical papers must be written in English.

The Theory and Practical papers are examined concurrently over four  days, usually in June, in three centres: London (UK), Sydney (Australia) and Napa (USA).

Dissertation - a 10,000-word original study, relevant to the wine industry, with the topic selected by the candidate and approved by the Institute
. This is typically written after the candidate has passed both the Theory and the Practical parts of the exam.

NB The Dissertation is being replaced by a new third element of the exam from the 2013-14 academic year.  The new third part is called the Research Paper; you can learn all about it by clicking the link below:

The new Research Paper


Only after successfully passing all three elements of the exam is someone eligible for membership of the Institute. It is membership of the Institute and abiding by its Code of Conduct that confers the right to the qualification Master of Wine and use of the title, or its abbreviated form MW after their name.



In order to sit for the examination a candidate must first have been a student in the Institute's study programme and have demonstrated suitable proficiency. Please see the Studying section of the website for further information.