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Rust seminar

Tasting sessions, theory lectures and never to forget: fun with both. The Stage 1 students managed successfully to get all of this out of their residential Seminar in Rust.

Rust – always a quiet little town with not much distraction in January – presented itself in full beauty: The Neusiedlersee frozen, some sunny days with a bright blue sky, some snowflakes inbetween and very cold temperatures hitting the minus 14 Celsius at night. So cold that the warnings of the first day became redundant after a while and some students risked to test the strength of the ice before sitting down in front of their 12 glasses in the morning at the Weinakademie.

It is not exaggerated to say that the Austrian Weinakademie is an ideal venue for the purposes of a residential Seminar: Three rooms made it possible to split the 41 students from all over the world in three groups for the tastings as well as the theory sessions, each session guided by two MWs. The team of the Weinakademie added to smooth processes, without their tremendous work a Seminar like this would not be possible. The glasses have been manually polished after every tasting by two marvellous ladies: Kati and Silvia. Christian has received all the wines and stored them for us. Joachim was helping in every thinkable and unthinkable situation, rebooting the Wi-Fi as well as copying and printing the tasting papers of the students for the feedback.

The face to face feedback has been extended to two sessions for the first time. There was a personal feedback for every single student already after the first 12 wine paper to give a general guidance regarding the style of the notes. And on the last day every single student got feedback on a 12 wine mock for a minimum of 30 minutes by an MW. This would not have been possible without the impressive work force of 14 MWs teaching and marking – donating their time and their engagement. And their knowledge. Like Lenka Sedlackova MW who gave an intense and interesting introduction into the current scene of Cava. Or Eran Pick MW who compared wines from warm and cool climates. This was not only exciting for the students but as well for the attending MWs who are always eager to learn.

And there was more to learn for all of us: Jean-Guillaume Prats, President and CEO of Estates and Wines at Moët Hennessy, compared wine tradition and innovation in an exciting lecture. And Professor Monika Christmann, president of OIV and head of the Institute of Oenology in Geisenheim updated us all in the newest facts and trends in winemaking.

The head full of facts, the students have been able to add the practical impressions in the evenings. Pepi Schuller MW, our gentile host, arranged tastings and visits at local wineries, he invited wineries from all over Austria to present their wines, he organised once again the famous pruning day, this year with the Pannonian wineries after an introduction into the gentle pruning. But still, it was very courageous of famous wineries such as Gernot Heinrich or Claus Preisinger to let the students prune their vines. The pruning was followed by a panel tasting with great reds of Austria at Umathum winery and great whites of the Leithaberg appellation. Two further highlights: the evening as Schloss Esterhazy and the final tasting at Palais Coburg in Vienna before the departure.

Traditionally the last night was dedicated to the Gala dinner, this time we had the hotel for ourselves, the firefighters of Rust have postponed their annual ball which usually took place in the room next to us. But the students didn’t care that much: They opened their own dance floor in the basement. And there were rumours at the departure at 8am at the next morning that some have not taken the detour through the bed on their way to the bus. Studies and fun – that definitely was the mixture in Rust this year.

Caro Maurer MW

Odney seminar

On the eve of Chinese New Year over 70 students from 24 countries arrived at the Odney Club Cookham for the first of the 2nd Year European seminars. The course was one day longer this year, which brought mixed feelings for candidates and MWs alike! Ultimately the extra day was advantageous for the majority as, instead of commencing with the ‘dreaded’ 12 wine white paper, the morning session was more relaxed with a 6 wine tasting to get back in the saddle. Several candidates later said “This is a great idea, I was still looking for my horse for the first 3 wines!”.

We were joined by a Phil Tuck MW and Neil Tully MW to give direction on both practical and theory papers. Neil shared insights, such as that candidates for whom English was not their first language tended to have a higher success rate in the theory exams. The afternoon revolved around three theory sessions run simultaneously by Michelle Cherutti-Kowal MW, Richard Hemming MW and Rod Smith MW who tirelessly repeated each session three times to facilitate smaller groups. The day had a sweet end, with Demetri Walters MW holding a blind tasting on sweet wines from around the world. Candidates had to group the wines according to production method: ice wine, botrytis, appassimento/dried and fortified.

Morning sessions for the rest of the week were 12 wine tastings led by MWs, with external speakers joining in the afternoon for specialised sessions. On Sunday afternoon each candidate received one-on-one feedback on two wines from the morning session and Lenka Sedlackova MW held an interesting Cava focus tasing.

Monday morning was the mock exam and in the afternoon Anne Krebiehl MW presented insights on her dissertation topic and held a delightful tasting of German Pinot Noirs, as well as an informative session on communicating clearly. The resident MWs were disappointed to miss this: they were busy marking papers for the Practical Only group (PO) in order to meet the objective of giving 30 minutes of one-on-one feedback to each PO student within seven hours of completing their exam! The full programme candidates joined a Research Paper session with Sheri Sauter-Morano MW who had braved a series of broken airplanes to join us! An informal, optional walk around blind tasting session ended the day, giving candidates the option of sleeping, working or exercising if they preferred.

Tuesday afternoon, for the first time, Plumpton College came to us, thus avoiding long coach journeys for students and MWs. Sarah Midgley and Tony Milanowski ran fascinating sessions on Sensory analysis: Acids, residual sugar and role of alcohol on perception of aromas and Sparkling – understanding the organoleptic effects on dosage amounts and different ingredients. They kindly ran each session four times in total, to facilitate smaller groups whilst allowing one group to receive their mock exam feedback. There was then an optional walk around tasting of English wines.

Wednesday afternoon saw Julia Trustam Eve, of English Wine Growers and Henry Laithwaite join us. Henry focused on answering several Paper 1 and 2 questions whilst Julia focused on Paper 4 questions. The evening was our BYO Gala dinner that was attended by Penny Richards and Jane Masters MW, and was enjoyed by all.

On Thursday morning we went to the Harrow and Hope, in driving rain(!) for our pruning session. Henry Laithwaite and his team provided plenty of good examples for theory-thirsty candidates.

In total 20 MWs participated and thanks also go to: Sam Caporn MW, James Davis MW, Natasha Hughes MW, Laura Jewell MW, Justin Knock MW and Ying Tan MW. The Odney Seminar would not have been possible without the help of Matthew Hemming MW (PO coordinator) and Phil Reedman MW (Theory Only coordinator) and of course the IMW office, especially Marianne. A big thank you to you all.

Annette Scarfe MW

Bordeaux seminar

There is something truly special about being on site with MW students for a full week. With such tremendous talent in the room, we MWs were awed by the students’ deep knowledge levels and their dedication to attain these glorious initials.

Not only does the residential seminar offer a fighting chance to get to know the students beyond exam advice, but it was a true personal renewal for me, a re-invigoration of my own commitment to excellence in learning.

The week offered a great deal of knowledge, experience and insight to the group. All the MWs in attendance were able to guide the students in new and inventive ways. Offsite visits showed the diversity of terroir and philosophy of two of the world’s top class chateau, Pontet-Canet and Cheval Blanc.

We were privileged to welcome some special guest speakers during the week. Alberto Antonini, former head winemaker at Antinori and rated as one of the five top wine consultants in the world by both Decanter and The Drinks Business, spent more than 24 hours with the students. His visit culminated in a presentation Soil and Fermentation Vessels, with special focus on soil management and vineyard care for regions as wide-ranging as Uruguay, Argentina, Armenia, Georgia and, of course, Italy. Lynne Coyle MW sums it up, “Alberto generously shared his philosophy developed during his vast international experience managing vineyards, he eloquently detailed the requirements to achieve quality in the vineyard and highlighted it is a combination of nature, science and art”.

Fiona Morrison MW’s off-the-record frank and unbridled Fireside Chat shared the challenges of shepherding one of the world’s most well-known luxury properties with particular focus on counterfeits. Fiona said, “The world criticises China for rampant counterfeits, but I assure you the problem is not just China. We’re combatting nefarious operators in Germany, Switzerland, France, Belgium and the UK, as well as the USA (to name a few countries). We spend more than €5 per bottle in our effort to safeguard Le Pin. It is all about giving our customers post-sale reassurance.”

Another of the many highlights was the Master Class Tasting: Spanish Wines, by Yiannis Karakasis MW and Norrel Roberston MW. Students and MWs alike were afforded an intimate tasting that exemplified Spain’s mastery of contemporary winemaking and gave us a tantalising glimpse at what we can expect during the 2018 Symposium in Logroño.

We also were lucky to include a fascinating session on oak trials led by Dourthe’s own Frédéric Bonnafous and Nicolas Mahler-Besse, CEO of Seguin Moreau. Barry Dick MW brought the students firsthand examples, photos and lively anecdotes on QA/QC. Mary Gorman-McAdams MW and Frederique De La Mothe (Director of Cru Bourgeois) brought students up to date on the latest developments with the Cru Bourgeois classification. As part of this, the students were orchestrated into a lively debate: the left side of the room assigned the argument for changeable classifications and the proposed return to tiers within the Cru Bourgeois system (superior, exceptional), with the right side of the room to counter.

More highlights included Matthew Stubbs MW leading a lively discussion on the future of fortified wine; an update by highly admired journalist, Jane Anson, on the latest trends in Bordeaux, like biodynamic wines, new wave whites and use of stems; and a Wine Faults seminar by Barry Dick MW and Natasha Hughes MW. How to Pass Practical and Theory Skills presentations by Natasha Hughes MW and Peter Marks MW were instrumental to the students’ exam preparation, as was the input and advice on Research Papers given by the group of MWs, in particular, Sheri Sauter-Morano MW.

Of course, part of learning in the wine industry is also enjoyment! We relished the Gala Dinner at Chateau Pey La Tour and the lively BYOB night (pity us poor souls who had to get up at 3:30AM for the earliest flight!), along with surprising warm weather throughout, and special touches, like the beautifully catered light lunch on the sunny terraces of Chateau Dauphine.

I have spent much time over the past 15 years at Pey La Tour, firstly as a student, then as a tutor, and finally these past years as coordinator. And as I closed the door of the chateau Saturday morning, it hit me how much I will miss the rugged limestone-walled classrooms, the infamous fussball tournaments in the bunker, the impromptu MW gatherings in the chateau’s ‘family room’, and the misty vineyards blanketed with astonishing coral skies during the chilly morning walks to the breakfast room. Not to mention the constancy and support of the Dourthe group, Mathieu Chadronnier and Patrick Jestin, most especially personified by Marie-Hélène Inquimbert. Most importantly though, I’ll miss the camaraderie and friendship of a roomful of people all working toward the same goal.

The Pey la Tour experience has contributed greatly to the success of innumerable Masters of Wine these past 17 years and — at a very personal level — helped shape the professional that I am today.

Debra Meiburg MW

San Francisco seminar

2017 gave us record attendance with twenty five MWs and 108 students participating; forty three Stage 1, forty five Stage 2, as well as nineteen Practical Only students and one Theory Only student. As tradition dictates, students sat mock practical exams in the mornings, but this year Stage 1 was treated to immediate feedback from MWs to get them on the right track from the start. This was an experimental session in North America, and Stage 1 students relished the feedback. Indisputably, the stand out session was sponsored and led by DC Flynt MW, aided by Peter Marks MW. DC and Peter walked students through twenty eight Burgundies of various quality levels, providing for some a once in a lifetime tasting experience! Two other wonderful tasting sessions sponsored by Wines of South Africa and Wines of Chile, introduced students to the most recent styles being produced in those countries of origin. Afternoon sessions on Sustainable Farming (with help from Karissa Kruse of Sonoma County Winegrowers, Remi Cohen from Lede Family Wines and Kendall Smith of Kendall Smith Vineyard Services) and Business of Wine Legal Structures (led by Eric Hemer MW, Eugene Mlynczyk MW, Phil Tuck MW and Cathy van Zyl MW) helped students with content and examples for Theory Papers 1, 4 and 5.

The evenings were packed with tasting opportunities including the annual Robert Mondavi Winery dinner, the Napa Valley Vintners (NVV) Interactive Tasting and Reception and the Jackson Family Wines walk-around tasting. The seminar concluded Tuesday evening with a Bollinger reception. There were pre and post seminar education opportunities as well for students. Forty students spent the two days prior to the seminar in a joint IMW/NVV Napa Valley Immersion Programme with a number of impactful seminars, tastings and hands-on experiences. After the conclusion of the seminar, the following morning provided students the opportunity to attend the IMWNA Annual Bordeaux Tasting, where participating students had the opportunity to taste over 65 wines from the 2012 Bordeaux vintage. All in all, a busy, informative and fun week for both students and MWs!

Amy Christine MW