Lenka Sedlackova MW, has been in the wine business for over a decade. Based in London, she works with one of the best UK importers Fields, Morris & Verdin. She is the first Czech Master of Wine (MW). In this regular feature, she answers the editor’s questions themed around the world’s wine regions and other wine-related topics.
Lenka, can you explain what the Master of Wine qualification is and who issues it? What is it that MWs do for a living?
The MW qualification is the highest qualification in the world of wine and one that is notoriously difficult to pass. There are currently 318 MWs (as of 2015)  in the world, the majority of them live in the UK. Some people like to say that there are less MWs in the world than there are people who have been to space. The qualification is awarded to those students who pass several grueling exams in theory and tasting and submit a successful research paper.
The qualification is issued by the Institute of Masters of Wine, which resides in London and was founded in 1953.
The majority of MWs work in the wine trade; they tend to be buyers, consultants, writers/journalists or managing directors of companies.
Why did you decide personally to study to become an MW?
I guess it was out of a desire to learn. I’ve always enjoyed the process of learning, even if I am not particularly fond of the stress the exams bring! Also, there are no Czech Masters of Wine so I thought this could give me the opportunity to become the first.
Do MWs have to have a detailed global overview of wines? Is there anything like a specialization that each MW selects at a certain point of studies?
Absolutely. It is not just about your knowledge of wine regions and grape varieties. MWs are expected to have in-depth knowledge of viticulture, winemaking techniques, the business of wine and contemporary issues. On top of that, MWs are expected to be expert tasters.
I think most students already, in some way or another, have a specialization but you are given the opportunity to expand it at the research paper stage. This is an in-depth study into a subject of your choice and helps develop detailed knowledge of the subject.
What regions and grape varieties are you interested in the most, and why?
I love Spain and Spanish wines. I think it is one of the most exciting wine producing countries today. Spain has some great terroirs (like those in Priorat or Bierzo) and lots of old vines. There are so many small, forgotten regions that are being brought back from obscurity and I enjoy discovering them. Look out for Listan Blanco and Listan Negro from Tenerife or juicy Mencia from Bierzo, as an example. [Read more about Lenka’s Spanish wines tips in outr next month chat]
Otherwise I love Riesling from pretty much anywhere, it’s the perfect summer white though admittedly it may be a hard variety to get to grips with for those, who are not familiar with the different styles that are made around the world. My favourite Rieslings are the rich, round styles from Alsace and the delicate, slightly sweet styles from Germany.
Of course, I cannot forget the classics. I drink plenty of Burgundy, Northern Rhone Syrah and not nearly enough Nebbiolo. I have recently got a real taste for South African whites; I think there are some really exciting wines coming from regions like Swartland, made by young, emerging winemakers.
Jancis Robinson MW OBE once wrote that today, it is much more difficult to become a MW compared with the time she passed. Why do you think this is so? What can wine connoisseurs thirsty for information expect from today’s MW title holders?

The exams are getting tougher and tougher every year, that is true. But the world of wine is also becoming more and more compex and varied. Back in the days, it was enough to know plenty about Burgundy and Bordeaux but nowadays you really are expected to have much wider view of the world of wine. Blind tasting is especially hard these days. Winemakers travel a lot more these days and often try and emulate styles of wines that they have come to love. Therefore there are many ‘international’ styles of wine which may look very similar, even if they are from different continents.
I think what connoisseurs can expect from MWs is a deep understanding of the world of wine and an ability to analyse, rather than just comment.