Without doubt, one of the most interesting and enjoyable aspects of my life in recent years has been serving as Academic Advisor and External Examiner for the Institute of Masters of Wine since 2004. It has been fascinating working with some of the leading figures in the wine industry during this period, and helping them evolve their examination system to ensure that it remains at the cutting edge of good practice in professional examinations (the picture here is from one of the MW training days in Olney). One of the things I have been most impressed with is the way in which the Institute has continued to explore novel and exciting ways to assess understanding of grape growing and wine making, as well as wine tasting skills. To be a Master of Wine, you really do need to have very considerable depth of knowledge and expertise!
This is rightly a qualification in the old medieval sense of the word ‘Master’, whereby someone only achieves the status when they have served an appropriate apprenticeship, learned the skills and knowledge requisite to become a journeyman, and then produced a master-piece that members of a guild thinks sufficiently highly of to elevate them to the status of a Master. In this light, the dissertation can be seen as the ‘master-piece’ that all candidates have to produce before they are welcomed into the Institute!
One of the things that most impressed me was the way in which the Institute recently developed a policy of reasonable accommodation and special consideration, that specifically addresses ways through which students with a range of disabilities and other special circumstances can indeed participate in the examination process.
It was therefore with a real sense of sadness – at least for me – that pressures of work in my new role as CEO of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation meant that in the autumn I decided that I could not continue in my role at the Institute. I was overwhelmed by the generosity of so many members of the Institute who hosted me to a wonderful dinner at The Don in London (not the picture here, which is from a MW gathering in Napa). Not only that, they each gave me a superb bottle of wine from their cellars, and I would just like to thank them all here for their amazing generosity. What a wine list this makes (thanks to John for noting them down!):
- Pouilly-Fuissé, Vergécosse, 2007 (Arabella)
- Barbaresco Riserva, Giacomo Conterno, 1955 (Arne)
- Mittelheimer St. Nikolaus, Riesling Auslese, Wegeler-Deinhard, 1976 (Barbara)
- Chêne Bleu, Aliot (Vaucluse), 2007 (Clive)
- Château Figeac, St. Émilion, 2001 (Hugo)
- Château Gloria, St. Julien, St. Julien, 1995 (Keith)
- Clos du Marquis, Saint-Julien, 1983 (Marcia)
- Viña Tondonia, Rioja Reserva, 1991 (Mark)
- Domaine Huet, Vouvray Pétillant Brut, 2000 (Neil)
- Bricco San Carlo, Monferrato Rosso, 2002 (Patricia)
- Royal Somló, Hungary (Peter)
- Croft Port, 1970 (Robin)
- Tantalus Old Vines Riesling, 2008 (Siobhan)
The challenge will undoubtedly be to decide when to drink these very special wines – or perhaps more appropriately, with whom and alongside what food!
Thanks again so much to the Institute for all that I have learnt, and for the friendship of so many Masters of Wine.