MW Study Programme: Odney Practical Only Seminar

Matthew Hemming MW

27 candidates travelled to the European Student Seminar held at the Odney Club, Cookham, to attend the Practical Only course.

As ever, intensive tasting remained at the core of the course but 2017 saw two new elements added to the timetable. The course was extended by one day, to match Seminars in other geographies and to improve the candidates’ experience with even more opportunity to practice tasting. Day one began with two quick-fire tastings of three wines each, rather than a 12 wine paper, giving everyone a chance to find their feet in order to hit the ground running with a full paper the next morning.

The second change was the introduction of optional ‘walkabout’ tastings on three afternoons. Candidates were given the opportunity to attend a large scale blind tasting, a significant tasting of English wines – supported by English Wine Producers and Henry Laithwaite – and a horizontal of some 30+ Napa Valley Cabernets from 2012. It was explained that these were optional sessions in response to candidate feedback that there was insufficient ‘down time’ during which to catch up on work, go to the gym and so forth. I am pleased to report that the Practical Only group responded positively to the suggestion that they might maximise the opportunity to taste as much as possible and that no one had ever passed the MW by going for a run!

Blind and tutored tastings formed the bulk of the schedule. We welcomed Demetri Walters MW to present a selection of sweet wines, Anne Kreibel MW to lead a tasting of German Pinot Noir and Lenka Sedlackova MW to tutor a tasting of Cava.

One-to-one feedback is amongst the most important aspects of the course. On the Sunday, each candidate received 15 minutes with an MW who had marked their answers on two wines from that morning’s Paper 1 tasting. After the mock exam, each paper was marked in full and feedback was given on the same day during a 30 minute session with an MW. This necessitated a huge amount of work from the marking team and we are enormously grateful to the MWs who worked so hard and gave so freely of their time. Feedback from candidates is very clear about the value they place on receiving feedback so quickly and in so much detail.

In addition to an already busy timetable, candidates had sessions with Philip Tuck MW, giving an examiner’s perspective on tasting. Guest speakers Sarah Midgley and Tony Milanowski, from Plumpton College, gave a presentation on sensory analysis. Sheri Sauter Morano MW travelled from the US to speak about the RP. Matthew Hemming MW led a workshop on dry tasting notes.

The Practical Only Seminar at Odney was an ambitiously intense five days. Annette Scarfe MW achieved an enormous amount in terms of marshalling a team of MWs, securing sponsorship and donations of wine and masterminding the jigsaw pieces of three concurrent courses. The smooth running of the programme was ensured by hard work and long hours put in by Marianne, Robyn, Olly and Penny – huge thanks to all.


Matthew Hemming MW