My first year as an MW
It's now been 12 months since I became a Master of Wine. After one month, I wrote about the immediate benefits, but now that a year has passed I wanted to summarise how it has made a difference. I hope this might be useful for MW students - or possibly anyone working in the wine trade who is curious about the perks.
Becoming an MW allowed me to increase my fees for most regular work by something like 10-15%. There have been some exceptions, however: word rates for print features are pretty much the same whether you are an MW or not, in my experience. As for my daily and hourly rates, they vary quite a lot, but I have at least been able to increase the minimum.
Having the MW title has been instrumental in this - it justifies charging more in the first place, but hopefully also gives the client extra value that comes with the qualification.
In the first few months of passing, it also felt as if I was getting more offers. I'm not so sure that has been sustained - you certainly can't sit back and expect the work to come flooding in. But I know do that, for example, the attendance of MWs is something that wine PRs value on behalf of their clients.
That last point is affirmation that being an MW confers a certain degree of credibility - within the UK trade, at least.
All Masters of Wine are expected to contribute to the Institute. The main way is by mentoring students, which is an integral part of the education programme. I now have four mentees at various stages of the course. So far, they've required pretty minimal input from me, but I have spent quite a few hours reviewing their practice papers or discussing exam technique and so on. None of this is paid, and it could potentially become very time-consuming - although the Institute takes measures to ensure it doesn't become overwhelming. Besides, I've enjoyed being able to help, so have no objections.
I've also been involved in the education programme by helping at the stage one seminar in Rust, as well as leading course days in London. Some of this work is unpaid - though not all - but again, I do it because I have the time and inclination.
Additionally, there are minor duties such as attending the AGM and reading annual reports - but these are optional anyway.
There's a certain expectation that MWs will know everything - whether it is identifying wines in blind tastings, or listing grape varieties permitted in obscure appellations. As a student, that is probably true, but as soon as you pass those exams, your knowledge levels plummet. Maintaining your knowledge and tasting skills is genuinely the most serious challenge of being an MW - you don't want to get things wrong.
The MW community offers quite a few other perks. For example, free use of Institute rooms for tastings or meetings, discounted tickets for their tasting events, the opportunity to go on trips, as well as get-togethers to meet other MWs and bring along wine to share. Additionally, there are one-off opportunities such as buying heavily discounted wines or being invited to producer dinners and so on.
Is it worth it?
Without question! It may not have been the immediately life-changing result that some people envisage, but it has been overwhelmingly positive in my experience so far. It took me six years of study before I finally passed all the exams. I am happy to be patient in experiencing the pay-off.