Acquiring the title of “Master of Wine” takes a great deal of time, money and effort. The qualification is given out by The Institute of Masters of Wine, which is based in the United Kingdom. To enroll in the program, those seeking the distinction of wine master must submit an essay and tasting notes. In addition, the candidates have to convince a Master of Wine to act as their mentor. Candidates typically work for many years as sommeliers before pursuing the title of Wine Master.

Becoming a Master of Wine is usually easier if you have already earned a Diploma level qualification from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust, an organization associated with The Institute of Masters of Wine. If accepted, it costs approximately $4,400 to attend the seminars necessary to complete the program.

What it takes to be a Wine Master

To become a Master of Wine, one must possess an extensive amount of knowledge about wine and the business of wine. This includes understanding wine:

  • distribution
  • marketing
  • packaging
  • regulation
  • sales
  • production.

Once accepted into the program, candidates have to pass four exams and three blind tastings during a four-day final examination. It is virtually impossible to pass both parts of the exam in one fell swoop, so those who pass one section can try again over the next two years. When the candidate passes both sections of the exam, they then have six months to turn in a dissertation (Six months from when their synopsis is approved by the Education and Examination Board of The Institute of Masters of Wine).

One of the most interesting aspects of the Institute of Masters of Wine program is that it is almost entirely self-guided. Accepted candidates have to familiarize themselves with the wine business, as well as the products” tastes, smells and history. Courses and exams for the Masters of Wine qualification are held in Australia, the U.K. and the U.S.

Master of Wine History

The title of wine master has been in existence since 1953, but the program has not always been open to all. During the first 30 years of the program, it was only open to U.K. importers, merchants and retailers. In the 1980s, the playing field opened up to include people who made their livelihoods in the wine business, no matter where they lived. The first American earned the qualification of Master of Wine in 1987.

The Institute of Masters of Wine proudly touts its goal of promoting the highest standards of quality in wine and in conducting wine business. The Institute claims to be working toward these goals by:

  • acting as a leader in industry discussions and international events
  • assisting and supporting members as they pursue their professional and personal wine-related goals
  • encouraging wine enthusiasts around the world to take the exam
  • gaining the support of all the players in the wine business.

There are currently 264 Masters of Wine, hailing from 22 different countries. Eighty-two of the Masters of Wine work and reside outside of the U.K.