You are here:  Home >> Free for all >> The 2011 MW exam - theory

The 2011 MW exam - theory

15 Jun 2011 by Richard Hemming

Read it and weep, folks [and remember that questions can look deceptively simple; the examiners are looking for extremely detailed answers with lots of examples - JR]. And see yesterday's details of the  practical (tasting) exams.

Below follows the MW exam I sat last week. True masochists can download it as a pdf here. I can't tell you what questions I answered - but feel free to start a discussion below to share your own thoughts. To find out more about my experience, read Diary of an MW student - part 26, the exam!

PAPER 1 – The Production of Wine Part 1 – Tuesday 7th June 2011 (3 hours) 
THREE questions to be answered, ONE from Section A and TWO from Section B

Section A
1. What are the vineyard factors that influence the choice of rootstocks?
2. Examine the differences between phenolic and physiological ripeness and their impact on winemaking.

Section B
3. Compare and contrast the advantages and disadvantages of organic and non-organic viticulture.
4. Explain the different styles of wine that can be made from Chardonnay and Semillon grapes and examine how the winemaker may influence them.
5. What are the options available for the control of acidity in musts and wines from selecting the date of harvest to the end of the malolactic conversion?
6. Explain recent changes in the uses of Sulphur and Sulphur Dioxide in the vineyard and cellar prior to the completion of the malolactic conversion.

PAPER 2 – The Production of Wine Part 2 – Wednesday 8th June 2011 (3 hours) 
THREE questions to be answered, ONE from Section A and TWO from Section B 

Section A
1. In order of priority, what quality assurance procedures should a producer have in place to avoid contaminated or defective wine?
2. What factors should influence the choice of a wine’s closure?

Section B
3. What filtration techniques are available to the winemaker after malolactic conversion and before bottling? When and how might each of them be employed?
4. Drawing on examples from around the world, demonstrate how a fortified wine’s style is influenced by its production methods.
5. How do scale and costs influence choices in the use of oak in the maturation of wine?
6. Critically assess the use of yeast lees in the maturation of both still and sparkling wines.

PAPER 3 – The Business of Wine – Thursday 9th June 2011 (3 hours) 
THREE questions to be answered, ONE from Section A and TWO from Section B 

Section A
1. Using examples from all parts of the value chain, examine whether “green pays”.
2. Examine the advantages and disadvantages of remaining a small wine estate.

Section B
3. Volume or profit? Examine the options facing multi-national wine companies.
4. Using examples from around the world, outline a marketing strategy for a global wine brand to be sold into hotels and restaurants.
5. Examine the extent to which the concept of terroir should influence the position and market for a premium wine.
6. How can the internet influence the success (or failure) of a wine brand?

PAPER 4 – Contemporary Issues – Friday 10th June 2011 (3 hours) 
TWO questions to be answered. 

1. How important is the influence of wine journalism in today’s media?
2. Is Wine principally an Art or a Science?
3. Can vineyards and wineries ever truly be biodiverse and sustainable?
4. “Wine from long habit has become an indispensable for my health” (Thomas Jefferson). Examine the extent to which views about the health benefits of wine have changed away from Jefferson’s habit in the 21st century.
5. Some say the majority of wine consumers enjoy wine without understanding it. How will this shape the future of the international wine trade?


Thanks Richard. The OCW definition, however, clearly points out that the term ‘physiological ripeness’ is widely used “to contrast with [sugar] ripeness”, and goes on to state that “the concept includes aspects of the berry's maturation which are not measured [by normal chemical measures]”. The italics are my own. Indeed another authority, plant biologist Dr. Jamie Goode (on his Wine Anorak website), makes reference to “phenolic ripeness (also referred to as physiological ripeness)”. At best the exam question is confusing, at worst it is erroneous. One to be avoided methinks! Fingers crossed for September…

18 Jun 2011 02:21 by Richard Cochrane

adding to ms turner's comments, i understand that papers remain anonymous throughout the entire marking process...

17 Jun 2011 10:15 by JC Viens

To clarify the exam marking process, this has just been emailed to me by Siobhan Turner, executive director of the Institute of Masters of Wine.

1. External examiner
The external examiner is Prof. Tim Unwin, Professor of Geography at Royal Holloway, University of London.

2. Marking of papers (both Theory and Practical)

Each paper is marked independently by two examiners, most but not all of whom are MWs. The marks are then sent to the Panel Chair for each paper (for Theory) or to the Paper Chair (Practical). The Panel Chair reviews the marks, and will moderate the answers where there is a significant discrepancy between the marks given by each marker. Each Panel Chair then sends his / her marks to me, and to the Chief Examiner. He and I both review the results for the candidates in totality, both for discrepancies and for marginality. Any so identified are reviewed in totality by the Panel Chair, Chief Examiner and, when appropriate, External Examiner.

17 Jun 2011 09:25 by Richard Hemming

Hi Tim,

Physiological refers principally to sugar and acid ripeness, whereas phenolics means flavour and tannins - full definitions are in the OCW here and here.

17 Jun 2011 09:22 by Richard Hemming

What ARE the differences between "phenolic" and "phsyiological" ripeness? I understood both terms were used (perhaps imprecisely) to denote mature grape skins, seeds and stems, as opposed to just sugar/acidity/pH "ripeness". 

16 Jun 2011 20:08 by Richard Cochrane

Hi Chris,

The course cost me over £5000 this year, plus 5 weeks off work - further details of which are in the latest MW diary, which you can link to in the intro above. As for the marking process, to address each of your points:

- for the theory, I believe there is one marker for each question, either an MW or specialist in the appropriate field (whereas for the practical, each paper is marked twice by default for consistency, as I understand it.)

- If students are successful, they are not told their mark. That way, every MW is created equal. If you fail, your marks are given back to you to allow for focused studying.

- there is an external examiner, but I am not sure of their provenance or application.

- there is an examiner's report and feedback session which allows each candidate to attend and ask questions as they see fit, as well as hearing a breakdown of how examiners believe the questions should have been approached for successful grades.

- there is no academic institution associated with the Institute, as far as I am aware.

I think generally the IMW is getting better at being answerable to such questions, although there is sometimes still an air of mystery about how it all works!

16 Jun 2011 08:19 by Richard Hemming

Richard Thanks for this fascinating insight into the MW exam. You may have already covered this elsewhere, if so please direct me to where that might be (and apologies for wasting your time). Considering so much time has been invested by you and so many other candidates, and also you have no doubt spent big (on fees and acquiring tasting experience) are you satisfied that there is transparency and probity in the marking of your papers. In particular: - how many markers will there be for each question/paper? - are the marks for each section revealed to the student, or are you simply told 'pass' or 'fail'. - to what extent will extreme marks be moderated by the body of opinion from the markers, or by a chief examiner? - what feedback will the examiners give you if you do not pass (not that I am suggesting that will happen!)? - is there an academic institution (e.g. a university) or regulator involved in providing quality assurance for the exam? Best of luck for a favourable result!

16 Jun 2011 06:46 by Chris Kissack

Mel, I think the question of premox would be better served as a dissertation topic rather than exam question. It is just too big and too complex to answer in one hour and 1,000 words. It would be tough too to bring in the international examples. 

15 Jun 2011 22:03 by Richard Ballantyne

Well, well, well...perhaps the IMW could reconsider its grammar and structure on the "Jefferson question", because it really should have used 'in the 21st century' after 'views'...before all the rest of the question. Have we all lost the plot about grammar? Does no one ever diagram a sentence anymore? Dear, oh, dear! Where are Strunk and White when you need them? In your head, if poss. Apart from the grammar-thing, I like the question for discussion, so hope that you all do, also. Thomas Jefferson- my idol-so I can' really fault him, for much. A Renaissance man, actually. 

15 Jun 2011 21:38 by Kat Crosby

I like the Jefferson question. It implies (though this may not have been intended)  that the answer should display some knowledge of attitudes to wine in the eighteenth century, which reminds me that in the 1720s David Hume was prescribed a bottle of claret every day as a cure for his melancholia.

15 Jun 2011 19:07 by Matthew Bell

14 items found [1] 2  Next >  Last >>
Contact us | Team Jancis | Site FAQs | Join now | Terms and Conditions | Privacy policy | Site map | RSS
© Copyright 2000-2014 Jancis Robinson