The Institute of Masters of Wine—known as the home of exceptional expertise in the wine world—is a membership organization that began more than 65 years ago.
In 1953, the Vintners’ Company and the Wine and Spirit Association recognized that they needed to improve the standard of education in the British wine trade and to formally certify its most talented members. They organized the first Master of Wine exam in 1953. Twenty-one people took the exam, and six people passed, becoming the first-ever Masters of Wine (MW).
Two years later, The Institute of Masters of Wine (IMW) was formed by the six MWs who passed the inaugural exam.
The IMW’s headquarters is in London, though it runs its study program and events worldwide. Today, there are 418 MWs based in 30 countries, each making their own contribution to the world of wine.
The IMW is a master’s course one can enroll in after completing all levels of the WSET or the Advanced level in CMS. Requirements also include three years of current and continuous professional wine involvement, a recommendation from a current MW or senior trade pro and completion of a practical and theory assignment.
For decades, IMW has represented the world’s highest level of wine training. Qualification to become an MW demands comprehensive knowledge of the international wine business, wine distribution and marketing, and it requires immense knowledge about wines from all over the world.
Students can study the program from anywhere in the world, with the option to attend seminars at study centers in Australasia, Europe and North America, and every student in the study program has an MW mentor. There are three stages to the program, and the minimum time it takes to qualify as an MW is three years.
The MW exam is a series of blind tasting exams and a series of theory papers at the end of stage two and an in-depth research project at the end of stage three. The exam tests the breadth and depth of a candidate’s theoretical knowledge and tasting skills in the art, science and business of wine. After successfully passing all three elements of the exam, students become members of the IMW, gain the title ‘Master of Wine’ and can use the initials MW after their name.
After passing the exam, MWs are required to sign a code of conduct before they are entitled to use the initials ‘MW.’ The code of conduct requires MWs to uphold the highest standards of commercial conduct within the industry.
Becoming a Master of Wine means entry into a unique wine community. It brings enriching personal and professional opportunities, lifelong friendships and exclusive opportunities. The IMW membership encompasses winemakers, buyers, shippers, business owners, retailers, academics, sommeliers, wine educators, writers, journalists and more. The one thing they have in common is their shared experience in the MW study program, a journey that requires dedication and motivation.