Having achieved the highest aggregate mark in the WSET Diploma in 2017, Moritz Mueller DipWSET is one of the rare winners of the coveted Vintners' Cup and Scholarship who does not work in the wine and spirits trade. He shares his secrets of how he studied to success whilst balancing his ambitious career in finance.
What sparked your passion for wine?
The first real connection I made with wine was when I moved to the Mosel valley with my family in 1999. I learned how two winemakers could make completely different wines from the same vineyard and how different vineyard sites brought out different characters in the wines of the same makers. I found it all inspiring. To this day, exploring specific terroirs is one of my biggest passions in wine, be it at home in Germany, in my second wine love Burgundy or wherever I travel with my wife to explore new wine regions.
What encouraged you to develop your wine education and gain the WSET Diploma?
After several years of reading everything I could find on wine and exploring the London wine scene, I was beginning to feel that I had developed very deep knowledge in a few areas, but almost none in others. The idea of learning about wine systematically to fill in the gaps was very appealing to me and the WSET stood out as a place to learn. Not working in the trade, I was also keen to develop better tasting abilities and importantly a better tasting vocabulary.
My lack of the latter was one of the things I found most intimidating when talking to people in the wine trade. Once I had completed the Level 3 Award in Wines, the Diploma was a huge, but almost inevitable next step for me. I had loved going to class every week, talking to passionate students and amazing teachers, and just wanted to keep going.
Most importantly for people not working in the trade, finding a study group can be immensely helpful. We regularly met up as a group of 6 people, helped each other with the theory, shared the results of our practice exams, but most importantly worked on tasting.
It is unique for someone outside of the trade to win the Vintner’s Cup and Scholarship. How did you manage your studying and tasting practice alongside your job in finance?
I underestimated the effort that would go into the Diploma. My job in finance is very busy and does not leave much study time during the week. That meant very busy weekends for almost 2 years and a good deal of planning in general. I tried to fit in an hour of theory study most weekday evenings, attended as many merchant tastings in London as I could and sought out producers where possible.
Finally, I tried to build a set of very detailed notes on all Diploma units. Putting them together was a big job, but made sure that I was working through the syllabus systematically and addressed my weaknesses.
What advice would you give to other wine enthusiasts who do not work in the trade but are looking to deepen their knowledge with the WSET Diploma?
Before starting the Diploma, I was confident that with hard work I would be able to do well in the theory. Tasting was what worried me. WSET School London really helped me refine those skills. I realised that tasting abilities are first of all about practice and not about being ‘gifted’. Most importantly for people not working in the trade, finding a study group can be immensely helpful. We regularly met up as a group of 6 people, helped each other with the theory, shared the results of our practice exams, but most importantly worked on tasting. I could not have done Diploma without Ali, Chiquita, Nat, Nico and Sergio.
Do you find your wine knowledge helpful in day-to-day situations?
I love discussing wine. Fortunately, there are so many people with an interest. If you find a kindred spirit, conversation rarely dries up, be it in private or in business situations. That said, I always try to keep a fine balance and keep the all-too-geeky talk for the weekends. At dinners, the wine list will often ‘magically’ find its way into my hands. It can be a challenge to find the right wine for a situation, but one that any wine lover would relish.
I am also an avid collector and a bit of a treasure hunter. Spotting that special bottle of Burgundy that a kind sommelier has decided not to charge an arm and a leg for can be super-exciting. And you can be sure, I am always on the lookout…
What are your plans for the future? Would you ever see yourself becoming more involved in the wine world?
I have an ambitious career in finance and that is currently my focus. There are without question a number of things in the wine world that hold a large appeal to me though. On the qualification side, there is still the temptation of the Master of Wine programme.
On a personal level, there is my deep interest in the wines of Germany, Burgundy and Champagne – maybe there is a project somewhere. There are also so many wine regions in the world that I’d like to visit. A trip to visit all major wine regions in Chile would surely be wonderful – I love how dynamic the wine scene is becoming over there. And who knows what else is going to happen down the line…