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The First Master of Wine from the Czech Republic

On 29th February this year came the news that the Czech Republic had its first MW – Lenka Sedláčková.

This may not have come as a total surprise, since it was long known that more than one Czech had already acquired a WSET Diploma, which is the prerequisite for embarking on the daunting Master of Wine studies. The Institute of Masters of Wine was founded in 1955 as non-profit institution that would mark personal excellence among its members.

Master of Wine (MW) is easily the most prestigious honour in the world for anyone connected with matters vinous, a holy grail of sorts. Originally it applied only to trade insiders. That began to change in 1983 when the doors were opened to all wine professionals and then in 1988 these studies were opened to the outside world.

It is so select only 396 people, coming from 25 countries, have ever passed since the exam’s inception in 1953. There are currently 343 living MWs, the five latest were announced earlier this year. Lenka Sedláčková was one of these. How did she get there?

Armed with a diploma in marketing and management from her home town Ústí nad Labem she left for Germany in 1999 to study the language before moving to London where she found the facilities and opportunities to be so tremendous she stayed on to study IT, web and graphic design.

And then, by chance, a friend who worked in a wine shop took her to a wine tasting. This proved a true eye opener. Her curiosity led her into asking an abnormal number of questions. However, the boss liked her approach so much he offered her a job as his assistant on the spot.

This was 12 years ago. She later found herself in the employ of wine importers Fields, Morris & Verdin, a wholly-owned affiliate of Berry Bros & Rudd, the oldest and one of the most respected wine and spirits traders in the UK, whose roots go back to 1698. And so, four years ago, Lenka Sedláčková began the quest for Master of Wine. Her employers were very supportive, paying for the MW course and examination fees, though the financial process is still tremendous and not inexpensive: it requires much time and travel plus access to mountains of knowledge on all aspects of wine as well as much personal experience of tasting and understanding thousands of wines of the world of all categories a many vintages.

The letters MW open lots of new doors. Sedláčková has already judged in Romania and will be at London’s International Wine Challenge. She has also accepted two offers to judge wines in the Czech Republic. As for thoughts of moving on, returning home is not on the cards, nor is moving to Australia. For the time being Lenka Sedláčková remains firmly entrenched in the UK wine trade where in the local language her surname is pronounced “Sedleck-over“. Perhaps one day she would like to try her beloved Spain, a place she regularly visits, where she worked several harvests many years ago and whose language and way of life hold a special place in her heart.

 Text and photo: Helena Baker DipWSET