The Odney seminar ran very smoothly in 2020, thanks to a great team of volunteering MWs with strong support from the executive office.
Several significant improvements were made based on feedback from last year’s seminar, including a reconfiguration of the self-pour tasting room to allow more space, replacing the gala dinner with a more casual mid-week BYO, and implementing projected answers for giving feedback on tastings.
This last change is the single most significant one, made possible by newly installed AV equipment at the Odney venue. While there are still some issues to solve, using this technology (ie, taking pictures of answers on smartphones and displaying them on screens) has definitely helped to give candidates clearer and more useful feedback.
Other content during the week included seven masterclass-style tastings, including one using samples specially prepared by Iain Munson MW to show the impact of differing levels of oak. This was in response to a general student request for more content at seminars, rather than just focusing on technique.
We have already identified several relatively minor issues to work on for next year, relating to catering and providing amplification where needed, among other things. A longer-term problem to consider is satisfying both the full programme and practical only students within the same timetable – a recurrent request is allowing FP students access to PO sessions, which is not practicable under current arrangements.
The MW team were treated to another excellent curry night featuring some good French Cabernet/Merlot blends, while the student cohort seemed particularly positive and enthusiastic throughout the seminar week – which I hope will be reflected in their exam results.
Finally, I’d like to thank Patrick, John and Angus for all their help, especially Angus’s loo-unblocking skills. Thanks also to the MW team, with particular mention to Barbara Boyle MW for overseeing the PO group.