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The 2014 MW exam questions

9 Jun 2014 by Jancis Robinson

Last week was the week the annual Master of Wine Practical and Theory examinations were held, as concurrently as time zones permitted, in London, Sydney and Napa. A record number of candidates, 106, slogged their way through four theory papers and the usual three practical papers, each involving a dozen wines served blind.

As usual, we're publishing the questions. As usual, I should imagine many wine lovers will read them and think, 'I could answer those'. But I can assure you that the questions always look deceptively straightforward. The examiners are looking for extremely detailed responses that the questions don't really hint at.

From my point of view, the wines chosen for the tasting papers look much more straightforward than last year's, and for once the 'contemporary issues' really do look interesting and topical. Chief Examiner John Hoskins MW commented on the Practical papers, 'Phil Tuck MW and his team have posed some interesting challenges this year. No doubt the chatter will all be about the Georgian "orange wine" on Paper 3, paired rather pointedly with the "celeb wine" [Brangelina's] Miraval Rosé. However, the examiners are confident that candidates won't have struggled at that stage, particularly as the question was about method of production, quality and commercial potential; no guesses required for origin or grape variety. The final pair on that paper formed a contrast almost as extreme. Two "big" reds, one the powerful but lively Amarone from Allegrini, the other the distinctly medium-dry Californian.

'Paper 2, we feel, was perhaps the most straightforward or "classic" red wine paper for some time. My guess is that Paper 1 will prove the hardest. At first glance it might look manageable, but sorting out those four dry-ish Rieslings may prove tricky. And there's always the issue of first-day nerves.

'As for the Theory, you will notice that we have tried to address as many topical issues as possible. Neil Tully MW (in charge of Paper 2 and next year in charge of the whole Theory exam) is particularly proud of question 6, but it covers a big area and students may have avoided it. There were easier pickings perhaps with the questions on traceability or micro-oxygenation.'

The anonymous examiners will be getting going on the papers handed in and the results will be announced in September. Those who somehow manage to pass both practical and theoretical parts of this 'closed book' exam then have to go on to write a dissertation or research paper on an approved topic before they qualify as Masters of Wine - which is not so easy, as our colleague Richard Hemming has found.

There are in total just over 300 Masters of Wine worldwide. Tomorrow and the next day we will be publishing a two-part report on the most scientific of the sessions held at the recent MW symposium in Florence, packed with information that would be extremely useful for next year's theory exams.

Theory Paper 1 - The Production of Wine - Part 1

(one question to be answered from Section A and two from Section B)

Section A

1) How can viticultural and winemaking techniques influence aromatic compounds in wine? Refer to wines made from Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir.

2) Skin contact can last from minutes to months. Assess how varying this technique can influence wine style and quality before, during and after fermentation.

Section B

3) Do the highest potential quality wines come from vines planted on a slope?

4) Why do winemakers use different fermentation temperatures? Refer to white and red table wines.

5) What are the quantitative and qualitative implications of young and old vines?

6) How important is the management of the area between the rows? Consider vineyards in both warm and cool climates.

Theory Paper 2 - The Production of Wine - Part 2

(one question to be answered from Section A and two from Section B)

Section A

1) Assess the role of oxygen in the maturation of fortified wine.

2) What are the critical factors (following primary fermentation and possible malolactic conversion) affecting quality in bottle-fermented sparkling wine?

Section B

3) What quality control procedures can make it possible to trace the origin of a bottle of wine?

4) Why are fining agents required during winemaking, and what factors influence the choice of fining agent?

5) Consider micro-oxygenation as an alternative to barrel ageing.

6) 'We consider the best wine is one that can be aged without any preservative; nothing must be mixed with it which might obscure its natural taste.' (Columella, 4-70AD). Assess the impact of chemical and physical intervention on the handling of wine following malolactic conversion.


Theory Paper 3 - The Business of Wine

(one question to be answered from Section A and two from Section B)

Section A

1) What matters more, what's in the bottle or what's on the bottle? Does the wine industry take packaging seriously?

2) Which factors are the most important for the long-term success of a wine brand?

Section B

3) How close should a producer be to the end-consumer? What are the best practical means of creating that relationship?

4) Can Australia recover its export markets?

5) What would be the implications of a short harvest in 2014 in European vineyards?

6) Are price promotions bad for the wine industry?


Theory Paper 4 - Contemporary Issues

(one question to be answered from Section A and one from Section B)

Section A

1) Is wine becoming too industrial?

2) Does the wine industry lack innovation?

Section B

3) To what extent do you agree with the assertion that viticultural legislation does more harm than good?

4) Can the wine industry ever be socially responsible?

5) To what extent is fake wine a problem in today's wine market?



Practical Paper 1

Question 1.

Wines 1-4 come from the same country.

With reference to all four wines

a) Identify the country of origin. (16 marks)

For each of the four wines

b) Identify the region of origin as closely as possible. (4 x 5 marks).

c) Discuss the key winemaking techniques used to produce this style. (4 x 8 marks)

d) Discuss quality in relation to the region of origin. (4 x 8 marks)

Question 2.

Wines 5-8 come from four different countries and are made from the same single grape variety.

With reference to all four wines

a) Identify the grape variety. (24 marks)

For each wine

b) Identify the origin as closely as possible. (4 x 10 marks)
c) Discuss quality and style. (4 x 9 marks)

Question 3.

Wines 9-12 are all made from a single variety. Two varieties are represented.

a) Divide the wines into their respective varietal pairs using both wines to identify the variety. (2 x 20 marks)

In addition to being paired by variety, they are also paired by country.

b) Divide the wines into their respective pairs by country and discuss their individual origins as closely as possible. (2 x 20 marks)
c) Taking one of the geographical pairs you have identified above, compare and contrast their method of production. (10 marks)
d) For the other geographical pair of wines you have selected, which characteristics might you highlight to a potential customer? (10 marks)

1. Viognier, Organic, Yalumba 2012 South Australia, Australia (14.5%)
2. Semillon, Bin 9000, McGuigan 2007 Hunter Valley, Australia (11%)
3. Chardonnay, Shadowfax Wines 2009 Victoria, Australia (13%)
4. Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon, Suckfizzle, Stella Bella Wines 2009 Margaret River, Australia (13%)
5. Watervale Riesling, Mount Horrocks 2013 Clare Valley, South Australia, Australia (12.5%)
6. Riesling, Grand Cru Muenchberg, Domaine Ostertag 2011 Alsace, France (13.5%)
7. Riesling, Domaine Rewa 2011 Central Otago, New Zealand (11.5%)
8. Deidesheimer Kieselberg Riesling, Kabinett trocken, Dr von Bassermann-Jordan 2011 Pfalz, Germany (11.5%)
9. Chablis, Grand Cru Les Clos, Duplessis 2010 Burgundy, France (13%)
10. Chardonnay, Coddington, Kumeu River 2011 Auckland, New Zealand (13.5%)
11. Sancerre, Domaine Vacheron 2012 Loire, France (12.5%)
12. Sauvignon Blanc, Tinpot Hut 2013 Marlborough, New Zealand (13%)

Practical Paper 2

Question 1.

Wines 1-4 are all made from the same single variety, but come from four
different countries.

With reference to all four wines

a) Identify the grape variety. (28 marks)

For each wine

b) Identify the origin as closely as possible. (4 x 8 marks)
c) Comment on the quality and commercial appeal. (4 x 10 marks)

Question 2.

Wines 5-8 come from two different estates. Two wines from estate A, two wines from estate B. All four wines are from the same region but from four different vintages.

a) Divide the wines into their respective pairs and identify their origin as closely as possible. (2 x 16 marks)

b) Within each pair, compare and contrast relative quality. (2 x 18 marks)

For each wine

c) Identify the vintage giving reasons for your conclusion. (4 x 8 marks)

Question 3.

Wines 9-12 are all from the same country.

With reference to all four wines

a) Identify the country of origin. (28 marks)

For each wine

b) Identify the specific origin with reference to the grape variety(ies) used. (4 x 9 marks)
c) Comment on the quality and maturity. (4 x 9 marks)

1. Saint Joseph, Silice, Pierre et Jerome Coursodon 2010 Rhône, France (14%)
2. Syrah, La Cumbre, Errázuriz 2008 Aconcagua Valley, Chile (14.5%)
3. Syrah, Qupé 2011 Central Coast, California, USA (13.5%)
4. Shiraz, The Dead Arm, d'Arenberg 2009 McLaren Vale, South Australia, Australia (14.5%)
5. Château Lynch Bages 2006 Pauillac, Bordeaux, France (13%)
6. Château Nenin 2008 Pomerol, Bordeaux, France (13.5%)
7. Château Lynch Bages 2009 Pauillac, Bordeaux, France (13.5%)
8. Château Nenin 2010 Pomerol, Bordeaux, France (14.5%)
9. Villacreces 2009 Ribera del Duero, Spain (14%)
10. Petalos, J Palacios 2011 Bierzo, Spain (14.5%)
11. Simply Garnacha, Bodegas Borsao for Tesco 2013 Campo de Borja, Spain (13.5%)
12. Viña Ardanza Reserva, La Rioja Alta 2004 Rioja, Spain (13.5%)

Practical Paper 3

Question 1.

Wines 1-4 are from four different countries. None of the wines is from Champagne.

For each wine

a) Identify the origin as closely as possible with reference to the grape variety(ies) used. (4 x 10 marks)

b) Discuss the method of production. (4 x 7 marks)

c) Comment on quality and commercial position. (4 x 8 marks)

Question 2.

Wines 5-8 are from three different countries.

For each wine

a) Identify the country and region of origin. (4 x 7 marks)

b) With reference to grape varieties used, discuss the method of production. (4 x 7 marks)

c) Comment on the quality and ability to improve in the bottle. (4 x 7 marks)

d) State alcohol level (%). (4 x 2 marks)

e) State residual sugar (g/l). (4 x 2 marks)

Question 3.

Wines 9-10 are produced from two different countries in Europe.

For each wine

a) Discuss the method of production. (2 x 10 marks)

b) Comment on the quality. (2 x 8 marks)

For both wines

c) Compare and contrast the commercial potential. (14 marks)

Question 4.

Wines 11-12 are produced in different countries.

For each wine

a) Identify the country and region of origin as closely as possible.

(2 x 10 marks)

b) Discuss the method of production. (2 x 7 marks)

c) Comment on the quality and maturity. (2 x 8 marks)

1. Cava, L'Hereu, Raventos i Blanc 2011 Penedès, Spain (12%)
2. Vouvray Brut, Francois Pinon NV Loire, France (12.5%)
3. Riesling, Sektmanufaktur Graf 2010 Pfalz, Germany (12.5%)
4. Le Reve, Blanc de Blancs, Domaine Carneros 2006 Carneros, California, USA (12%)
5. East India Solera Sherry, Lustau NV Jerez, Spain (20%)
6. 15 year-old Malmsey, Blandy's NV Madeira, Portugal (19%)
7. Six Grapes, Reserve Port, Graham's NV Port, Portugal (20%)
8. Banyuls, Rimage, Domaine La Tour Vieille 2011 Roussillon, France (16%)
9. Miraval Rosé 2013 Côtes de Provence, France (13%)
10. Pheasant's Tears, Rkatsiteli 2011 Kakheti, Georgia (12.5%)
11. Ménage à Trois, Folie à Deux Winery 2012 California, USA (13.5%)
12. Amarone della Valpolicella, Allegrini 2009 Veneto, Italy (15.5%)

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