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  • Richard Hemming MW
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  • Richard Hemming MW
14 Jun 2016

There's probably a German word which means 'the feeling of relief you get when, after six years as a student, you finally get to talk about the Master of Wine examination as an MW'. Smügfalsepathos, perhaps.

Yesterday, the Institute of Masters of Wine published the papers that last week were sat by 'a record number of students' in London, Sydney and San Francisco. As usual, there are three tasting papers ('The Practical'), which cover whites, red and then anything - traditionally the place for sparkling, fortified and sweet wines to be used, but featuring six standard table wines this year - tricky! There are also five theory papers, which require either two or three essays to be written within a three-hour closed-book exam.

Reading the exam paper reminds anyone who's been through the process just how much preparation is needed. The depth and breadth of understanding required to answer these questions is incredibly daunting. Congratulations are due to anyone who survives this feat of concentration, expertise and endurance - regardless of the eventual outcome. 

We reproduce the papers below, including the lists of wines tasted.

Jancis adds I would just repeat what I say every year: that however simple the questions may look, the answers expected are extremely detailed and, often, technical. Love question A 1 on Theory Paper 5.

THEORY PAPER 1 – THE PRODUCTION OF WINE – PART 1 (VITICULTURE)

(THREE questions to be answered, ONE from Section A and TWO from Section B)

            Section A

  1. Assess the effectiveness of the options available to organic and biodynamic grape growers to control pests and diseases.
  2. What practical options does a viticulturist have at his or her disposal to address long term changes in climate in an established vineyard?

    Section B
     
  3. Can Cabernet Sauvignon and Riesling be successful in the same location?
  4. Compare the main vine training systems used in the following wine regions:
    • a. Mosel
    • b. Alsace
    • c. Marlborough
    • d. Châteauneuf-du-Pape
  5. What steps can a viticulturist take to provide and maintain proper vine nutrition?
  6. When and how can hail cause damage at various stages of vine growth? What methods are most effective for preventing or responding to such damage?

THEORY PAPER 2 – THE PRODUCTION OF WINE – PART 2 (VINIFICATION AND PRE-BOTTLING PROCEDURES)

(THREE questions to be answered, ONE from Section A and TWO from Section B)

            Section A

  1. It is often noted that some wines are not perfectly clean, and have low levels of potentially faulty aromas sometimes referred to as "funky". How can a winemaker best manage a desirable element of "funkiness" in his or her wine?
  2. Shape, size and material of a vessel used for fermentation and maturation are important factors in determining style and quality. Discuss with particular reference to Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.

    Section B

     
  3. How can a wine's tannin profile be managed during vinification?
  4. Discuss the impact of malolactic fermentation, or its absence, on wine style.
  5. What are the winemaker's options and challenges in colour management for different wine styles?
  6. Examine the pros and cons of skin contact during the winemaking process.

THEORY PAPER 3 - THE PRODUCTION OF WINE – PART 3 (HANDLING OF WINES)

(Answer TWO questions from the FOUR listed below)

  1. What are the most common causes of bacterial spoilage in wine? What effect do they each have, and what measures can be employed to guard against them? Your answer may consider the whole grape growing and winemaking process.
  2. What should a winemaker's main considerations be when preparing a finished wine for bottling?
  3. Consider the key issues for storage of wine after packing is complete.
  4. Evaluate the prevention and correction of the following problems:
    • Pinking in a white wine made for drinking early
    • Phenolic bitterness in a red wine 
    • High levels of volatile acidity in a full bodied red wine

THEORY PAPER 4 – THE BUSINESS OF WINE

(THREE questions to be answered, ONE from Section A and TWO from Section B)

           Section A

  1. Who is making money in the wine industry and why? Discuss in detail three specific examples of profitable wine businesses from different parts of the wine industry supply chain.
  2. There is much talk of consolidation in the wine industry, but where is the industry fragmenting and why? Give examples of businesses that are succeeding as a result.

    Section B
     
  3. What is a "virtual winery"? Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of this business model.
  4. What are the most quantifiable signs that a wine brand is strong?
  5. Do today's wine labels do a good job of communicating the most important information to consumers?
  6. What are the commercial advantages and disadvantages of packing/bottling wine in the local market of consumption? Is this trend a good thing for the wine industry?

THEORY PAPER 5 - CONTEMPORARY ISSUES

(TWO questions to be answered, ONE from Section A and ONE from Section B)

         Section A

  1. "The consumer's limited knowledge is a blessing for the wine industry." Discuss.
  2. How much should a consumer trust the words of a wine commentator?

    Section B

     
  3. Which is more important in wine: tradition or innovation?
  4. To what extent is wine just another commodity?
  5. Do government drinking guidelines make sense?

PRACTICAL PAPER 1

QUESTION 1

Wines 1 and 2 are from the same country. They are both blends. For each wine:

  1. Identify the region of origin as closely as possible, comment with reference to the grape varieties used. (2x10 marks)
  2. Comment on quality within the context of the region of origin. (2x10 marks)
  3. Discuss the key winemaking techniques used to arrive at this style. (2x5 marks)

QUESTION 2

Wines 3 and 4 are from the same country and the same grape variety. With reference to both wines:

  1. Identify the grape variety and origin(s) as closely as possible. (16 marks)
  2. Discuss winemaking with particular reference to maturation post fermentation. (14 marks)
  3. Comment on quality within the context of the region of origin. (20 marks)

QUESTION 3

Wines 5 and 6 are made from the same grape variety. With reference to both wines:

  1. Identify the grape variety (20 marks)
     
    For each wine:
  2. Identify the region of origin as closely as possible. (2x8 marks)
  3. Discuss style and commercial appeal. (2x7 marks)

QUESTION 4

Wines 7 and 8 come from the same country. For each wine:

  1. Identify the origin as closely as possible. (2x10 marks)
  2. Comment on the winemaking. (2x8 marks)
  3. Discuss style and quality. (2x7 marks)

QUESTION 5

Wines 9-12 are from four different countries and are made from four different grape varieties. For each wine:

  1. Identify the grape variety. (4x8 marks) 
  2. Identify the origin as closely as possible. (4x7 marks)
  3. Comment on quality and state of maturity. (4x10 marks)

PRACTICAL PAPER 1 - WINE LIST

  1. Château Brown. 2013. Pessac Léognan, Bordeaux, France (13.5%)
  2. Châteauneuf du Pape, Domaine Vieux Telegraph Blanc. 2014. Rhône Valley, France (13.5%) 
  3. Chardonnay, Clos du Bois. 2014. California, USA (13.5%)
  4. Chardonnay, Kistler McCrea Vineyard. 2013. Sonoma Mountain, California, USA (14.1%) 
  5. Clos Windsbuhl Pinot Gris, Domaine Zind Humbrecht. 2013. Alsace, France (14.5%)
  6. Pinot Gris, Ponzi. 2014. Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA. (13.1%)
  7. Acodo White Rioja, Basilio Izquierdo. 2010. Rioja, Spain (13.5%)
  8. Albariño, Bodegas de Fefinanes. 2014. Rías Baixas, Spain (12.5%)
  9. Crios de Susana Balbo Torrontés, Dominio del Plata. 2015. Argentina (13.9%) 
  10. Gewürztraminer, Waimea. 2014. Nelson, New Zealand (13.5%)
  11. Vouvray, Domaine Marc Brédif. 2013. Loire Valley, France (12.5%)
  12. Riesling, Ried Schütt, Dürnsteiner, Emmerich Knoll. 2012. Wachau, Austria (13.5%)

PRACTICAL PAPER 2

QUESTION 1

Wines 1 and 2 come from the same region and are made from the same single grape variety. With reference to both wines:

  1. Identify the grape variety and origin as closely as possible. (18 marks)
  2. Compare the winemaking styles. (18 marks)
  3. Compare quality, with particular reference to both wines' potential evolution. (14 marks)

QUESTION 2

Wines 3–5 are not from France and are all made from the same single grape variety. With reference to all three wines:

  1. Identify the grape variety as closely as possible. (15 marks)
     
    For each wine:
  2. Identify the origin as closely as possible, with particular reference to the climate. (3x10 marks)
  3. Comment on quality and consider key selling points. (3x10 marks)

QUESTION 3

Wines 6 and 7 come from the same region and the same vintage. For each wine:

  1. Identify the specific origin as closely as possible, with particular reference to the dominant grape variety. (2x9 marks)
     
    With reference to both wines:
  2. Discuss the relative quality of both wines within the context of their specific region. (18 marks)
  3. Identify the vintage. (14 marks)

QUESTION 4

Wines 8 and 9 come from the same region. For each wine:

  1. Identify the origin as closely as possible. (2x9 marks)
  2. Discuss quality within the context of the specific region. (2x9 marks)
  3. Discuss the key winemaking techniques used to arrive at this style. (2x7 marks)

QUESTION 5

Wines 10–12 come from three different single grape varieties, each closely associated with their origin. For each wine:

  1. Identify the origin as closely as possible, with particular reference to the grape variety used. (3x12 marks) 
  2. Discuss the key winemaking techniques used to arrive at this style. (3x6 marks) 
  3. How would you sell this wine to a potential customer? (3x7 marks)

PRACTICAL PAPER 2 - WINE LIST

  1. Morgon, Domaine Lapierre. 2014. Beaujolais, France (12%)
  2. Moulin À Vent Clos de Rochegrès, Château des Jacques Domaine Louis Jadot. 2014. Beaujolais, France
    (13%)
  3. Pinot Noir, Dog Point. 2012. Marlborough, New Zealand (14%) 
  4. Spätburgunder Blauschiefer, Meyer-Näkel. 2014. Ahr, Germany (13.5%)
  5. Pinot Noir, Tyrrell's Old Winery. 2014. Australia (12.5%)
  6. Château Léoville Barton, 2me Cru Classé. 2005. St Julien, Bordeaux, France (13%)
  7. Château Berliquet, Grand Cru. 2005. St Emilion, Bordeaux, France (13.5%)
  8. Côte Rôtie, La Barbarine, Domaine Gangloff. 2011. Rhône Valley, France (13%)
  9. Châteauneuf du Pape, Clos des Papes. 2011. Rhône Valley, France (15%)
  10. Malbec, Colomé. 2013. Salta, Argentina (14.5%)
  11. Blaufränkisch, Moric. 2011. Burgenland, Austria (13.5%)
  12. Tributo Carménère, Caliterra. 2013. Colchagua, Chile (14%)

PRACTICAL PAPER 3

QUESTION 1

Wines 1–5 are all made from the same single grape variety. For each wine:

  1. Discuss winemaking, with particular reference to oak. (5x10 marks)
  2. Identify the origin as closely as possible. (5x8 marks)
  3. Comment on quality and commercial appeal. (5x7 marks)

QUESTION 2

Wines 6–8 are all fortified. For each wine:

  1. Identify the origin as closely as possible. (3x10 marks)
  2. Discuss the key winemaking techniques used to arrive at this style. (3x10 marks)
  3. Comment on quality and maturity. (3x5 marks)

QUESTION 3

Wines 9 and 10 are from different countries. For each wine:

  1. Identify the origin as closely as possible, with particular reference to the grape varieties used. (2x10 marks)
  2. Discuss the key winemaking techniques used to arrive at this style. (2x10 marks)
  3. Comment on quality and maturity. (2x5 marks)

QUESTION 4

Wines 11 and 12 come from the same region and producer. With reference to both wines:

  1. Identify the origin as closely as possible. (20 marks)
  2. Discuss the key winemaking techniques used to arrive at these styles. (20 marks) 
  3. Discuss how the styles of these wines determine their commercial appeal. (10 marks)

PRACTICAL PAPER 3 - WINE LIST

  1. 'Initial' Blanc de Blancs, Jacques Selosse. N.V. Champagne, France (12%)
  2. Blanc de Blancs, Pol Roger. 2006. Champagne, France (12.5%) 
  3. Puligny Montrachet Vieilles Vignes, Vincent Girardin. 2013. Burgundy, France (13%)
  4. Chardonnay, Vidal Legacy. 2014. Hawkes Bay, New Zealand (13.5%) 
  5. Mâcon Blanc Villages, M&B Talmard. 2014. Burgundy, France (13%) 
  6. Palo Cortado, Cayetano del Pino y Cia. N.V. Jerez, Spain (20%)
  7. 20 Year Old Tawny Port, Graham's. Douro, Portugal (20%)
  8. 10 Year Old Sercial, Henriques & Henriques. Madeira, Portugal (20%) 
  9. Tokaji Aszú, 6 Puttonyos, Royal Tokay Wine Company. 2011. Tokaj, Hungary (9%)
  10. Château Guiraud, 1er Cru Classé. 2001. Sauternes, Bordeaux, France (13.5%) 
  11. Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore, Campi Magri, Corte Sant'Alda. 2012. Veneto, Italy (13.5%)
  12. Recioto della Valpolicella, Corte Sant'Alda. 2013. Veneto, Italy (14.5%)