Stage 1


Stage 1 is the foundation year, and for most students it is their first serious interaction with the Institute. It's also an opportunity to meet Masters of Wine in a professional and a social setting, as well as fellow students, and to form friendships that may last for decades.

Stage 1 of the Study Programme involves a five-day residential seminar, and at least two non-residential course days. Students are expected to produce six pieces of work for assessment during the year. The culmination of stage 1 is the stage 1 assessment (S1A), an exam that takes place in early June. Progression to stage 2 of the Study Programme is dependent on the results achieved in the S1A.

The seminar

The seminar is the core building element of the annual Study Programme and attendance is a pre-requisite for progression to stage 2 of the programme. The seminar is five days in length and offered in centres in Europe, North America and Australia. It includes a variety of classes covering both theory and practical sessions. 

The primary aim of the stage 1 seminar is to introduce students to the MW syllabus in order to ensure that they understand the breadth and depth required. In particular, MW tutors aim to highlight:
  • The level of knowledge required
  • The extent of analysis and synthesis necessary
  • The skills required for successfully conveying the candidate’s knowledge, understanding and experience
  • Study strategies, techniques and methods that have proved useful to others.
A stage 1 seminar typically includes a variety of tasting sessions. Some aim to introduce new students to the MW style of tasting and broadcast the message about the requirements of the Examiners. The seminar will include at least one mock examination as well, so that students can get first-hand experience of mastering a 12-wine tasting paper. The stage 1 seminars aim to include hands-on and practical sessions, such as winery or vineyard visits, blending sessions, and marketing workshops. These sessions may vary from year to year and their purpose is to show the application of MW skills through action. It is also common for first-year seminars to include plenary type lectures from renowned industry leaders.
For the theory parts of the syllabus, the stage 1 seminar aims at providing a solid foundation in skills development. Therefore, great emphasis is given to writing skills, such as question analysis, essay planning, and writing effective introductions and conclusions. Other theory sessions tend to showcase a variety of topics so that students can gain an understanding of the depth required, the multidisciplinary nature of the theory papers and the global aspect of the MW examination.

Course days

Course days aim to provide continuity throughout the academic year and are led by a Master of Wine. They help students to maintain momentum, gain inspiration and develop themselves. Course days are also perfect platforms for networking with fellow students in order to set up tasting and study groups or to learn from a Master of Wine and each other.  
Stage 1 course days will normally include a tasting in the morning and theory work in the afternoon in order to provide a balanced programme. In North America and Europe, there are courses day prior to the seminar in the early New Year, which enables new students to arrive at the seminar with some preparation beforehand. The post seminar course days serve the purpose of further development before the assessment. 


Stage 1 students have six voluntary assignments to complete, of which three are essays and another three are dry tasting assignments. The essays are referred to as AMS, which stands for assignment marking scheme, whilst the tastings are called PAMS, practical assignment marking scheme. There is detailed feedback provided for each student. 


The Institute provides each student with an MW mentor for the academic year. The mentor role is principally that of a non-judgemental adviser who can be a source of challenge, support, insight and guidance. Masters of Wine undertake to mentor students voluntarily and share their experience and insight. 

Study groups

The MW is a self-directed study programme where individual determination, self-motivation and perseverance are essential. However, it is also indispensable for students to form study and tasting groups - in person and online - in order to share their knowledge and expertise. There is a great diversity of professional backgrounds, areas of expertise and experience as well as geographic spread from different markets around the world amongst the student body.

The stage 1 assessment (S1A)

At the end of the first year of studies students need to write an assessment if they wish to proceed to stage 2. The assessment is referred to as the S1A and it involves one 12-wine tasting paper and two essays. All students have to sit the S1A in either London, Napa or Sydney in June.

Progression to stage 2 

Recommendations are given to students when their S1A results are published, which will be one of the three listed below. Each student also receives individual feedback on their performance.
  • Progress to stage 2
  • Re-take stage 1 in its entirety, including attending a seminar (although attending a European seminar is not likely to be possible due to space limitations)
  • Take a few years (minimum two) out before applying to join stage 1