Stage 2 (formerly known as the Second Year) is a crucial time for students in the Master of Wine Study Programme. It can be intense, but enjoyable and rewarding, as students work towards taking the first two parts of the Master of Wine Examination.
Stage 2 of the Study Programme involves a five-day residential Seminar, and at least two non-residential Course Days. Students are expected to produce at least three pieces of work for assessment during the year.
The culmination of Stage 2 is the closed-book parts of the Master of Wine Examination (Theory and Practical), which take place in early June. Progression to the Research Paper, which is the third part of the Master of Wine Examination, depends on students passing both the Theory and Practical parts of the Examination.
For more information, see below, or follow the quick links to the left.
The European programme offers the Stage 2 Seminar in two locations (due to the number of students); Bordeaux in France and Cookham in the UK. There is no difference between the two seminars in terms of level.
The Theory-only and Practical-only Seminars, for those who achieved a pass in one half of the examination, are also run for European students in Cookham.
The North American and Australasian programmes offer all the Stage 2 Seminar programmes, i.e. full, theory- and practical-only, at the same time and in the same venue in San Francisco and Adelaide respectively. Attendance at the Seminar is a pre-requisite of sitting the MW Examination.
The Stage 2 programmes also include a number of course days. In Europe, there are 4 course days; with two on consecutive days in the autumn and another two on two different dates in the spring. The course days are offered at the Institute’s offices in London.
In North America, there are three course days included in the tuition fee, two in the Fall and another one in the Spring. Students can choose whether they attend the course days in Napa or New York City.
In Australasia, there are three course days included in the fee and these would normally be held in late April or early May in order to accommodate the southern hemisphere vintage. The course days are held on consecutive days and are typically offered in Auckland, Sydney and Hong Kong.
The residential Seminar is the major building block of Stage 2. It is five days in length and offers very intensive preparation for the Examination. It is therefore imperative that you come prepared and that you don’t write your first tasting, essay plan or full essay at the Seminar. The better prepared you are when you come to the seminar, the more you will get out of it.
At Stage 2, MW tutors take it for granted that you know how to write an essay and how to approach a tasting. They will offer skills development sessions, but these will be at advanced level in order to further hone your skills. The session will aim to cover all parts of the syllabus, but yet again, they will be there to stimulate and challenge you rather than provide you with what you need to know for the exam.
There will be mock exams in the schedule of your Seminar and it is essential that you are well prepared for them so that you can have a realistic check-point in your study progression. It may well be the case that you make the mock exam one of your milestones. MW tutors will be very honest and straightforward with their feedback, whilst remaining objective and referring you to the requirements as set out in the Syllabus.
Whilst you must build the depth and breadth of your knowledge as a starting point, it is at least as important to make sure that you are able to critically select the relevant parts of your knowledge and experience in relation to an exam question. Keep asking yourself past or pseudo exam questions and write down the relevant bits of knowledge that enable you to answer the question. This is what the seminar is going to offer throughout: challenging yourself in order to improve.
Naturally, the Seminar is also the single most useful social and networking opportunity. Talk to your peers, ask questions, listen patiently and offer your insights when asked to do so. Make sure that you build up as much knowledge from a very international group as possible.
Course days are held in small groups in order to encourage a high level of interaction and engagement; and they are tutored by a Master of Wine. Students receive pre-course day material to prepare, which is generally developed further in class.
The programme of course days intends to cover all the theory papers during the year as well as to form a complete whole with the seminar and the assignment marking schemes. The tastings are not always necessarily 12-wine papers: they may be shorter in order to allow for more effective skills development. The wines normally would be selected along the same principals as at the exam, i.e. they are typical of what they are supposed to show whether it is quality, origin, or style. However, course days may also employ a theme for selecting wines, such as oak or level of residual sugar, in order to focus on certain topics in the assessment of wines.
The Institute constantly aims to improve, and we value students’ feedback. Thus it is important that you fill in the online questionnaire after each course day.
Students get access to both the Assignment Marking Scheme (AMS) and the Practical Assignment Marking Scheme (PAMS) in order to offer them the opportunity for practice and further feedback. This is included in the tuition fee, so you are strongly encouraged to participate. In fact, it is a pre-requisite to submit at least three theory assignments if you wish to sit the exam in a given academic year.
The AMS offers the option of submitting six essays during the academic year. In early October, the Institute publishes a set of 12 essay questions; three questions from each of the four theory papers. Students can choose the 6 questions they wish to write and can submit the completed essays in any order by the submission deadlines advertised. In other words, if you have forgotten to submit any essays but you wish to take the exam, you can submit 3 on the last submission deadline, though we strongly discourage you from doing so. It is more beneficial to have continuity of preparation by submitting an essay at each deadline.
If you wish to submit more than 6 essays, you can do so. It is possible to submit all 12, but note that you will be charged for any essay above and beyond 6.
The essays are marked by a panel of MWs and they provide written feedback, which is normally returned to students three weeks after submission.
The PAMS offers a total of three dry tasting assignments. These are dry tastings in so much as you do not need to buy the wines, but you need to write up the answers. The wines will be typical; therefore, this exercise assists you more in improving your writing skills and how you argue a case than in your organoleptic skills. In other words, these three assignments will not replace real tasting practice, be it sighted or blind. The submitted papers are marked by a panel of MWs, and students receive written feedback three weeks after submission.
Stage 2 students tend to keep on working with their mentor from Stage 1 unless there is a request for change. Students are encouraged to foster a good working relationship with their mentors and it may well be practical to re-establish the rules of engagement.
The beginning of Stage 2 is also an opportunity to review the study plan and the progress of the student in order to agree a suitable plan for their studies. Remember that the relationship must be driven by the student, because mentors are there to advise, support and assist those who require it and ask for it.
It will be more useful than ever to work with your peers. You will find advice on study groups in the section for first years students. Study groups provide you with a great deal of energy, enthusiasm, and motivation; there is a group dynamic that will help you keep going.
You are also advised to be smart about studying with your peers. Ensure that dates are set well in advance as well as the topics for each day. This allows plenty of time for preparation, which ensures that all of you benefit from these joint sessions. When you make the plans, allocate tasks and try to rotate them, so that everyone can benefit from different aspects of the study group.