Master of Wine Exams are 70 Years Old. See How They’ve Changed

On May 13, the Institute of Masters of Wine (IMW) celebrates the 70th anniversary of the first MW examination. Both the exam and the Institute have changed radically over those decades.

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MW Exam Question 1953
MW Exam Question 1953

The IMW celebrates the 70th anniversary of the first MW examination that was held on 13 May 1953 as part of an aim “to improve the level of training in the British wine trade” by the Wine and Spirit Association and the Vintners' Company.

As an illustration of how the wine industry and the Institute of Masters of Wine have changed, it is worth looking at some of the questions that candidates had to answer in that first year:


  • “Say how you would set about obtaining a Justice’s Licence to sell Wine in England.”
  • “You receive an order for a Hogshead [250 litre barrel] of Port and 10 Dozen of Sherry from a customer in New York. Describe your procedure in importing and forwarding these parcels, giving details of the documents you would require, and how you would label the Sherry?”
  • “You purchase a Red Bordeaux of 1949 Vintage. The Wine is a 2nd Cru Classé from St Julien. Part of your order is bottled at the Château and part in your own cellars. Sketch an imaginary label or labels that you would affix to these bottlings. Give full reasons for whatever information is shown in your sketches.”
  • “Trace the development of the Wine Trade since 1850 in the following Wine producing regions:
     South Australia and Victoria,
    Oporto, and


Of the 21 original candidates, six passed, and together they founded the Institute of Masters of Wine in 1955. Since that first year, 494 others have succeeded in becoming MWs, in most cases after two or more attempts.

The first Masters of Wine were all men. Indeed, it was not until 1970 that Sarah Morphew MW became the first woman to pass the exam. Now, there are 149 female Masters of Wine – more than a third.

For over 30 years, the MWs were also all British, until the exam was opened to other nationalities, allowing the Australian, Michael Hill Smith MW to become the first ‘International MW’ in 1988. The 415 Masters of Wine alive today live in 31 different countries.

Neil Tully MW, Chairman of the Exam Committee, reports: "I am aware that each year our exam defines the benchmark for Master of Wine expertise. And yet we are always looking for ways to keep our exam current and relevant.

Exam 2022

The 2022 exam questions included:

  • Natural wine does not need a legal definition.' Discuss.
  •  Assess the main challenges and opportunities for the wine education industry around the globe in the next ten years.
  • How is artificial intelligence being used within the wine industry and what might its impact be in the coming decades?
  • Are biodynamic practices the key to more sustainable wine production?
  • Does anyone still need wine writers?

The next exam will be held globally from 06 to 09 June 2023. Past exam questions can be viewed on the IMW website

The 10th International Symposium will be held in Wiesbaden on June 29-July 2. Meininger’s is honoured to be a media partner. Details of the event are available here.





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