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Youngest Female Master of Wine

Emily Brighton, Class of 2010, has just become the youngest female Master of Wine in the world. The much-coveted title is the highest distinction a professional wine expert can achieve.

“I am over the moon,” says Emily. “In many ways, it's been the most challenging thing I've ever done - a mentally and physically wild ride of learning, accomplishment, the odd set back, a global pandemic, wonderful people, wine and places, plus a tonne of hard work, tenacity and focus to achieve this ultimate goal.”

Emily works as Head of Technical at North South Wines, the first UK wine importer and distributor to achieve B Corp accreditation – the subject of Emily’s research paper. The rigorous assessment for Master of Wine involves five theory exams covering viticulture, vinification, handling of wines, the business of wine and contemporary issues, as well as three blind tasting exams of 12 wines each, followed by a research paper.  

Emily says: “I remember five years ago feeling totally overwhelmed at the Stage 1 seminar in Rust, Austria, concluding that the Master of Wine was frankly insurmountable, with a pass rate of around 10%, and that Masters of Wine were basically superhuman, so it feels somewhat surreal, but absolutely brilliant, to be joining their esteemed ranks!”

Her passion for wine began while reading Law at Bristol University, where she joined the Wine Society and discovered blind tasting. She started her career at Majestic after graduating in 2013, briefly managed independent merchant The Wine Reserve, before joining the Buying & Technical team at Bibendum PLB, followed by a stint as Technical Manager at Buckingham Schenk.

Emily says: “Wine is the most endlessly fascinating subject, touching on art, history, geography and science. I don't think there's anything else like it, and the more you know, the more there is to discover. Blind tasting boils down to sensory logical reasoning under intense time pressure, which is joyous when you're getting things right, or conversely infuriating, but highly compelling either way!” 

She is looking forward to getting involved with the global Master of Wine community and International Master of Wine education programme, tutoring, examining, wine awards judging and running tastings. Emily also plans to take part in Master of Wine trips to wine regions and to keep promoting sustainability.

She concludes: “The UK wine industry is endlessly dynamic, and I feel very positive about the direction it’s heading in, with sustainability becoming a key priority in decision-making throughout the supply chain, and huge strides being made in uplifting women, while the variety and quality of wine on the market has never been higher.”

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