What is a Master of Wine?

Jane Masters MW is Opimian’s Master of Wine


At the end of August, the Institute of Masters of Wine announced 16 new Masters of Wine (of which three are Canadians) bringing the worldwide total to 409. Nearly 70 years after the first Master of Wine (MW) exams were set by The Vintners Company, a City of London Livery Company established by royal charter in 1363, the title of Master of Wine is recognized globally, with MWs living and working in 30 countries.


Masters of Wine come in all shapes and sizes from diverse backgrounds and wine careers. Each MW has proven their understanding of all aspects of wine by passing rigorous theory and practical tasting exams and writing a research paper. I am sometimes asked the difference between a Master of Wine and a Master Sommelier. In short, it is the breadth and depth of knowledge necessary for the MW exams which require clarity of thought, writing skills and of course extensive tasting experience. Master Sommeliers are highly knowledgeable with a focus on hospitality and wine service.


Preparing to sit the MW exams is hard work. Many candidates have worked through the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) exams. The highest level – WSET Level 4 Diploma in Wine – or an equivalent is one of the pre-requisites when applying to join the MW program. Having trained as an œnologist in Bordeaux, I took an alternative route and was working for a large UK retailer at the time.


Studying with others who have different perspectives expands thinking and creates bonds for life. Richard Kershaw MW and I started studying for the MW exam at the same time. Richard had originally trained as a chef but found a greater love in wine and was managing a wine shop. He felt he needed to understand winemaking so he dropped out and took himself off to work harvests in various places ultimately settling in South Africa. There, he went back to school to learn chemistry and biology so that he could apply for a winemaking course. After all this he went back to the MW with success. Richard makes stunning wines and I am so pleased that Opimian Members have the opportunity to enjoy them.


Another friend, Sam Harrop MW features in the Cellar Offering 280. I first met Sam in the Hunter Valley. He was working harvest. I was on a buying trip. In between tastings, the head winemaker asked if he could introduce me to a young New Zealander who was looking for a job in the UK. I was impressed. Around the day Sam started, I learnt I had passed my MW exams. I am not sure whether that inspired Sam but some years later he became one of the youngest MWs! Sam is now one of the world’s leading winemaking consultants and lives back in Waiheke Island in New Zealand, where he makes his own wines offered through Opimian in Canada.


Another Opimian partner, Michael Palij MW, of Winetraders, is a Canadian living in England. He specializes in Italian wines and has introduced Opimian to some truly special producers including the Zucchetto family, makers of premium Prosecco and Clavesana in Piemonte who featured in the recent CWEB20 offering. But I don’t want this to sound like cronyism. The very essence of an MW is to act with integrity and honesty. Indeed, on becoming a Master of Wine, we are required to sign a code of conduct to this effect and to contribute to the mission of the Institute of Masters of Wine to promote excellence, interaction and learning across the global wine community.


Opimian is the only Canadian wine club to have a Consultant Master of Wine and I am honoured to be it. Using my wine network, my aim is to bring members a curated range of exclusive wines to suit all occasions and tastes whatever your budget. All the wines go through the same rigorous tasting evaluation to select those offering the best quality and value for money. I try to spread the love by sharing my experiences, the personality of each wine and the stories behind them. I really want you to enjoy Opimian wines and be inspired to discover more!