Mastering wine

(by peter & susie)

So what did you get up to this bank holiday weekend?

You may have put your feet up in front of the FA Cup. Or dodged the showers on an optimistic outing with the family. Hopefully you weren’t caught up in any travel madness…

We, by contrast, spent all three days in a room in Winchester’s fine Guildhall, putting 30 Master of Wine students through their paces. We tested them with 36 different wines, served blind over three tasting papers, with a forensic analysis of answers after every exam.


This was our third such event, which we now hold annually (but may do more frequently in the future – watch this space…You can also read our reports on the 2011 and 2010 events.)

The students travelled from as far afield as Vancouver, Austria, India, Jersey, Spain, Ireland, Belgium, France and New York to be there – and there was dedication, professionalism and great talent in abundant display this year.

As ever, the weekend was a compelling mix of intense work, occasional levity and the usual highs and lows that such a tough test inevitably engenders. It was great to see people enjoying a weekend away in Winchester, and overall it was a great privilege to be able to spend time with such a talented and fun bunch of wine folk.

(Which more than made up for the fact that, as a result of leading the tasting, Peter had to turn down the opportunity to film with ESPN live from Wembley…)

Particular wine highlights included a beautifully venerable Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial 2001, a thrillingly intense Peller Estates Riesling Icewine 2007, a sensational (and brilliant value) Puerto Fino sherry from Lustau, gorgeous 1995 Vin Santo… All this plus some delicious claret, white Burgundy, Vouvray, Riesling, rosé, Pinot Noir, port and more.

Details on wines, as well as the kind of devilish questions we posed, can be found on the pdfs below.

Our thanks go out to all the students. We are also very grateful to all the wine suppliers who supported us not just by providing a great range of classic wines but also by helping us find answers to all manner of pedantic and intrusive questions we needed to find about the wines.

Anyone interested in taking on the MW challenge should visit the IMW website. As for us, we’re already taking bookings for this course for next year…

Wines and questions, 2012

Feedback from our 2012 MW student tasting weekend

‘Susie & Peter’s Wine School is an absolute crucial weekend for first year MW students wishing to learn the language and structure of a great answer. For those preparing to sit the exam it offers the fine tuning and precision that is sought at this level.’ (Ray)

‘Thank you both for such a constructive tasting. It was challenging, informative, encouraging and fun (despite hard work!) and I came away motivated and with a real plan for what needs to be done over the next few weeks.’ (Siobhan)

‘Thanks for the weekend. Learnt a tremendous amount. Having attended two years running I think the course manages to cater for first years, second years and repeats, whatever stage you are at you get what you need at that point. It is as close to exam conditions as you can get, the wines this year were insightfully chosen, fantastic choice of benchmark wines. I enjoyed tasting them. The range of questions were great – very challenging’ (Barbara)

‘Many thanks to you both for the weekend and all your hard work. Great wines, great live practice and as usual great articulate feedback.’ (Barry)

‘Thanks so much for the weekend, it was great. Very helpful, meticulous research into the wines and the papers. It really made a difference’ (Vicky)

‘Thank you both for a constructive and enjoyable weekend. We understand that it is also a commitment on your part over a bank holiday weekend to help us MW students get through the exam, so a warm THANK YOU to you both. I certainly learnt where I need to fine tune my answers  and where I need to practice before going into the exam. I thought the selection of wines was well researched and challenging, the question papers even more so. It was lovely to meet you both.’ (Catherine)

‘Thank you for a fab educational weekend.’ (Julia, via twitter)

‘Seamlessly executed and as close to exam practise as is possible, which is what is required at this stage.’ (Phil)

‘I thought it was really brilliant. The wines were fab examples of type, which is really important, the questions were well constructed and diverse, to allow a number of different types to be tackled, and the feedback was very helpful.’ (Sue)

‘Definitely another productive weekend so thanks for all your efforts in making it happen. Feeling pretty positive having identified my weaknesses and a way to hopefully overcome them in the next 4 weeks…’ (Kieron)

‘Thanks for a brilliant weekend.’ (Sue)

‘Many thanks for the great weekend full of information, knowledge and support. You guys should pick the wines for the exam as well 🙂 well done.’ (Kristian)

‘I very much enjoyed the MW practice weekend and it highlighted areas of weakness that I need to work on – very useful.’ (Heather)

‘Had great weekend @wineschools – learnt a plenty & know what I need to fine tune before exam. Great feedback from the other students too!’ (Catherine, via twitter)

‘Thank you for a great course – really enjoyed it.’ (Lindsay)

‘Thank you for a terrific guided workshop in white wines of all origins!’ (Katherine, via twitter)