The best thing about being a Master of Wine

I’ve been an MW for over a month now, and the benefits were surprisingly immediate. This post isn’t to brag, but to share my experience for anyone who might be an MW student or thinking about starting. Okay, maybe to brag just a little bit.

Within a week of becoming an MW, I got several new offers of work that I had always wanted to do. One of them is being an international judge at an Australian capital city wine show – the National Wine Show in Canberra, which comprises all the medal winning wines from other wine shows, so has a status as the ‘show of shows’.

I was also asked to deliver a keynote speech at a food and wine conference in Portugal (which I had to turn down), hosted a masterclass at a trade tasting, appeared on a flagship BBC radio news programme to comment on a wine story and am in discussions with a company to become an endorser of their wine programme. All these things came about spontaneously, and while I can’t be 100% sure, it seems probably that being an MW was an important part of why they came to me.

I’ve also been able to increase some of my prices as a freelancer. It’s hard to know quite where to place these, and the fee varies according to what people want, but having the MW qualification is a fair justification for the premium, I think. Everyone is aware that passing the exams requires an extraordinary degree of work, and that adds value. Equally important is the prestige of the title – companies like the credibility of having an MW involved.

It’s very gratifying to reap the rewards of the time and money I invested in studying so soon – after all, it took me six years and probably cost close to £10,000 in total.

To counter all this raging big-headedness, let me now tell you that the best thing about being an MW isn’t the prestige or recognition or work opportunities, great though those are. It’s being able to help other students. I am mentoring three new MW students, and love it.

For those of you rolling their eyes at such high-handed sanctimony, I can assure you that my reasoning is quite selfish: mentoring students is the best way to keep my own knowledge up to scratch. Compared with when I sat the exams over three years ago, my level of knowledge and tasting accuracy has dropped considerably. Having to comment on my mentees’ essays and tasting prowess will not only keep me on my toes, it should help me maintain the high standards that people expect from MWs.