Last month marked the pinnacle of my wine education when I was officially inducted as a Master of Wine at the annual awards ceremony. Held at Vintners House it was a very special evening attended by many of the people who I had met along the course of my MW studies, both students and tutors, as well as – most specially for me – my husband, parents and two fellow wine monkeys.
Of course graduation ceremonies are always happy times, but I can think of none happier – or noisier – than this one. As each of us 24 new MWs individually went up on stage to accept our official certificates there was a new wave of applause, hollering and general appreciation from the audience. Not to mention more than a few tears. It really was an incredible evening that will live a long, long time in the memory.
A month or so on has given me some time to reflect on what it all means – and where I have come from. One really lovely aspect of becoming an MW that I didn’t anticipate was the many, many letters, notes and emails of congratulations I received – both from friends and colleagues but also many from people I haven’t yet met. One of those notes was from my very first wine tutor from back when I had just finished university and hadn’t yet started in the wine trade. I took an evening class in the WSET intermediate level (now level 2) along with my Dad and one of his colleagues, both keen wine lovers, and I still remember to this day how exciting it was to learn a little more each week about the world of wine. Not to mention getting more than a bit confused with the German classification system! That course is what really made me think about the wine trade as a future career – and 6 months after I finished I moved to London to start on Oddbin’s Trainee Manager programme.
10 years has passed since then and I have moved through various jobs along the way – but one constant has been my wine education. At Oddbins I completed my WSET Advanced and then started on the Diploma. After a break when we moved out to New Zealand for a year and a half I restarted the Diploma and ended up graduating as the highest scholar in my year, being awarded the Vintners Cup. That propelled me onto the MW which has taken up the last 4 years of my life with all of its highs and lows along the way. So it is perhaps no surprise that the one question I keep getting asked now is, what next?
It is a very good question – and for someone who has essentially been studying in one way or other since school it is strange to think that there is no further to go in terms of wine education. The MW is it – now my challenge is to keep my levels of knowledge up to scratch, to keep up with as much of the new research, topics and debates as possible so that I can help my mentees with their own studies.
But I have also got another project brewing –one that will take rather longer than 4 or even 10 years and will affect my day to day life even more than studying for the MW. My very own mini-monkey is due with us in just over 2 months’ time and I can’t wait. Give me 6 months to a year and then we can think about what comes next for me with wine. For now, my new challenge is to be a mummy and it’s sure to be the steepest learning curve yet.