Oddbins buyer joins hallowed MW ranks
An Oddbins buyer is one of 13 wine gurus to have secured the revered Master of Wine title this year.
Ana-Emilia Sapungiu MW is one of just four students in the UK to have passed the examination in 2016.
There are now 354 Masters of Wine in the world, spread across 28 countries.
Sapungiu started her career with Oddbins in 2004, having had some experience working with wine importers as part of her university degree.
She told OLN: “I wanted to get close to consumers and that’s why working with Oddbins appealed to me. Starting in the branches is great and I would recommend it for anyone who might be considering a career in the drinks industry. You get really close to the consumer and understand what they want.
“I then moved into sales and then I became a trainee buyer and then wine buyer.”
The MW exams are notoriously difficult and the tests include a practical tasting exam, a theory test and a final essay module.
Sapungiu spent more than six years studying with the Institute of Masters of Wine and her final research paper was titled: “What is the current and future role of wine agencies in the UK multiple off-trade?”
She said: “You need to know what you are getting into when you start this programme and you need to be disciplined. You need to dedicate one or two evenings a week to tastings with a group and 15 hours a week to personal study and theory.
“About halfway through you probably might think about giving up, but it is the people I came across along the way who make it, and there is great support.”
For Oddbins it will most certainly bolster the retailer’s credibility to have an MW in its ranks, although as to whether it might change the nature of her role Sapungiu said “to a certain extent we are yet to find out”.
It may not have a direct impact on the business, she said, but she added: “I do think it is important for more people in the trade to increase their qualifications. It helps when building relationships as it proves we do care about wine and we are qualified.
“The MW course does show how complicated wine is but at Oddbins making sure consumers are not overwhelmed by the subject is at the centre of everything we do. We want to make it fun and approachable. It’s something we have been doing since day one.”
For the near future Sapungiu is looking forward to focusing on her Oddbins role while also enjoying having more time on her hands now that she isn’t studying.
The other new Masters of Wine from the UK are Richard Ballantyne, Matthew Forster and Jeremy Lithgow.
These join the rest of the full line up of newcomers: Bree Boskov (Australia), Matt Deller (US), Barbara Boyle (Ireland), Sonal Holland (India), Mary Margaret McCamic (US), Iain Munson (France), Mick O’Connell (Ireland), Mark Pygott (Taiwan) and Fongyee Walker (China).