Diary of an MW student – the end


See yesterday's exciting news

Confession: the main reason I became an MW student in 2009 was so that I could write this diary for JancisRobinson.com. Back then, having just chronicled a year of viticulture in England, and prior to that a vintage in Australia, I simply needed something new to write about. 

As reasoning goes, of course, this is utterly idiotic. Yesterday, six years later, as I heard that I had finally passed and was now an MW, it briefly crossed my mind that idiocy can be underrated.

I’ve written about every stage of my MW journey – so indulge me once more as I explain what it feels like to pass. My mobile rang at half eight in the morning, after a restless night. Penny, the Executive Director of the Institute, introduced herself. In those seconds, hours passed. Hello Penny, I said. Then she asked if I was ready to hear some good news.

I remember bouncing from room to room, babbling politely about how very pleased I was, caught in a weird state between hysterical elation and professional formality. When I hung up, I collapsed on one knee and brought my clenched hands to my forehead, eyes screwed shut.

The rest of the morning was spent wallowing in the sheer indulgence of receiving hundreds of messages, mostly via Twitter, of congratulation and celebration. Many people said how much they’ve enjoyed reading this diary, several told me it had helped them with their own studies and a few even said it had encouraged them to enrol themselves – which is an incredibly gratifying outcome.

Looking back over 60 instalments reminds me what a remarkable journey it has been. From first reading the syllabus to swiftly feeling like I could never pass the exam. Then the joy of passing the First Year Assessment to the realisation that I was getting bored of wine itself. There was the revelation of baldness and reading out my MW results live on camera. Then tasting bootcamp before beginning the notorious dissertation ... before having to abandon it ten months later. Next came the mysterious new Research Paper up until the penultimate instalment in July this year, when I submitted the work that was finally to be approved in order for me to add those initials to my name.

Reviewing this diary reminds me how much I have gained from this process: knowledge, of course, but also analytical skills, patience and will power. I’ve gained friendships that are unlike any other. I’ve gained an appreciation and understanding of wine to a degree that I could never have imagined possible.

I’ve gained all this and more – including, as of yesterday morning, a rather bruised knee.


As an accolade, the MW can undoubtedly be likened to the Oscars of the wine world. Unlike the Oscars, recipients don’t get the chance to deliver a blubbering speech at the graduation ceremony. So I will take the liberty of giving my thanks here.

Behind every successful MW stands an enormous line of people who helped them. I relied on dozens of friends, colleagues, MWs and fellow students to pass all three parts of the MW examination, and every one of them was indispensible. There are five, however, of whom I must make special mention:

Jancis Robinson MW, who some of you may have heard of, funded my first year of study and encouraged me throughout.

Julia Harding MW was my mentor for the first two years and her meticulous eye for detail was the standard to which I falteringly aspired.

Alex Hunt MW mentored my third year and his insight into tasting was instrumental in my success in the practical paper.

Fiona Barlow MW oversaw my research paper, the part of the process with which I struggled most. Thanks to her guidance and encouragement, I not only overcame the difficulties I had experienced but actually came to relish the challenge.

And finally, the girl I met as Kathryn Weir back in 2009, at roughly the same time I embarked upon the MW journey. For the entire time I’ve known her, she has vicariously suffered the stress and anxiety of MW student life with nary a waver. She even went so far as to marry me in March 2012, making her by far the most important MW in my life: My Wife.

I thank them all, as the saying goes, from the heart of my bottom. Finally, thank you for reading. It has been a pleasure.


I may have got married during the course of my studies, but I didn’t give birth, as some have done. Nor was English a foreign language to me. I’m not the youngest MW, and I certainly didn’t pass in the shortest time – I’m not even the first MW called Hemming, maddeningly. If everything is relative, then my achievement is entirely average compared with that of the many MWs who battled far greater adversity than I did while pursuing those fabled initials.

People have been asking me what my plans are now, and there is clearly much to do if I’m to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with my new peers.

It’s often said that more humans have been into outer space than have passed the MW. But nobody’s done both. Look out for Diary of an MW Space Cadet, coming soon.