author Image

Boycott the Master Sommeliers?


Kay Baine
18th December 2023 at 4:30 pm

I have been researching for a month or so trying to decide what company I should choose to do my Somm Cert. Because of this article, I choose to go with CMS! Tired of the garbage folks. Just tired. Time to grow up and be an adult. Not everything is racist. People have overused that word so much since Obamba took office that it no longer has any meaning. All I really do when I hear this word is next…………………….

Anthony B (A young wine enthusiast)
27th March 2022 at 8:30 pm

I don’t doubt that there is an issue of creepy old guys discriminating against women and minorities. That should be changed, and that can only be changed from the ground up, introduce more people to wine! WE need to do it

I hate this idea that corporations and entities should vow support for X righteous cause!
It’s just silly!! Like you have every major CORP pandering to social change despite USUALLY not giving a hoot about such issues.. It’s silly and honestly, certification boards like this should not express opinions on HOT political issues.
Why does it even matter? Like it’s complete vortue signaling.. “Hey you wine enthusiasts, do you support my cause or do you SUCK”

There is PLENTY to criticize the old crusty smelly greasy sommeliers guild for.

But that, and being republican.. NO BUENO IMO

Willie Cooke
27th August 2021 at 8:12 pm

My wife and I just watched the documentary “Somm” on Netflix. We saw the incredible amount of preparation and dedication it takes in order to pass the Master Somm exam. That is much more time and effort that I would want to put in. Not that I am lazy. I was an air traffic controller, and put in the effort to pass the FAA Academy, which has a very high washout rate (or at least had, when I attended decades ago).

That being said, the “wokeness” of the complaints about Somms are par for the course nowadays. Absolutely EVERYTHING has to have the “correct” percentages of demographics, or else they are “obviously” racist, sexist, political, homophobic, xenophobic, etc.

Gee, too many Republican Master Somms? How about take a look at university professors in the U.S.? Over 80% Democrat, with the political donations matching the percentage. In order to fix that, shouldn’t they “flatten the curve” of bias in education, by eliminating some the the Leftist professors, and make an even playing field in education? Seems to be a little more important to our country, than the demographics of people who taste wine for a living. Don’t you think?

    Uncorked and Decanted
    3rd September 2021 at 10:49 am

    This isn’t about what tribe you are in. This is just about good American values: don’t play favorites, let the cream rise to the top, and protect those weaker than us.

    Putting your faith in a television show is not a way towards understanding the issue. Sure, people work hard, but the outcomes have been shown to be rigged. What does it matter if you work hard but will never be let into the club? It’s not just about gender or race. If you are unattractive, overweight, or handicapped, you are also very unlikely to be let into the club.

Jeffrey L Kruger
14th July 2021 at 12:28 am

Instead of abandoning or boycotting the court altogether, is it not a better idea to continue to oust those that deserve to be irradiated, replacing them with people that care about the industry and its future and can help to ensure that diversity is a central tenet ingrained in the fabric of the newly revived court of master sommeliers? That’s my opinion. It wouldn’t be a terrible thing if woman were in charge For a little change, not to in any way imply that I struggle is Real for people of color as well. “Canceling it” altogether it’s just going to give the Republicans the BS ammo they want to continue to spew fourth their lame narratives for those small minded enough to listen.

    Uncorked and Decanted
    3rd September 2021 at 6:37 pm

    Or maybe let another sommelier agency take up the mantle?

8th July 2021 at 4:50 am

Hey Tyrone,

First, I sympathize with your sentiment of woke culture and your call on the article. Good eye.

Aside from that, you said you went this route, the sommelier route?? If you did become a somm., is the curriculum the same now compared to when you passed it, how long did it take to become one and did being a somm make it easy to find employment?

About working as a somm, is there a difference between one and someone who isn’t a somm (say, a bar tender) in terms of work and pay and anything else you’d want to mention?

Thank you,

C. Rob
24th January 2021 at 9:38 am

This is in perfect lockstep with the dumpster fire that is our current state of affairs…

Doug J.
11th January 2021 at 4:50 pm

“SOMM is an independent board that reviews professional certifications in the wine trade.”

Can you please publish the entity status and tax filing status of your Board as well as a list of acting board members so that those that disagree with your point of view and political beliefs can boycott the businesses that your board members own or are employed by?

Kelly Cooke
2nd December 2020 at 9:32 am

There will always be someone with a “victim mentality” projecting their insecurities onto someone, begging others to join their bandwagon. For the reasons you have in suggesting boycotting CMS, this makes it quite clear to me that they are on the right track. When a founding entity promotes progress by inclusion, one should stand up and take notice.
I suggest you get control over your emotions, words and actions and be proactive in finding solutions to issues you feel need attention rather than attempting to dismantle things you feel threatened by.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This Individual is a Licensed Private Investigator from Texas. We do not know if she is employed by CMS, but that would be interesting.

    Kelly Cooke
    2nd December 2020 at 12:23 pm

    I actually from California, have worked in TX in the service industry for several years and have ZERO affiliation with CMS. I am pursuing becoming a Sommelier and in my research came upon this scandal. My views and comments have nothing to do with me being Private Investigator.

    Kelly Cooke
    2nd December 2020 at 12:40 pm

    I am actually from California, have worked in TX in the service industry for several years and have ZERO affiliation with CMS. I am considering becoming a Sommelier and in my research came upon this article. My views and comments have nothing to do with me being a Private Investigator and rather came from my clear and open-mindedness.

      Uncorked and Decanted
      3rd December 2020 at 9:07 am


      The language you use shows you see Americans from other parts of the country as fundamentally different from you, and therefore are not worthy of your sympathy or consideration. Open minded people do not dismiss the growing evidence of corruption, sexual assault, and bias of CMS as being caused by a “victim mentality. ” There is simply too much evidence that this is true.

Andrew Isaacson
23rd September 2020 at 8:15 pm

I never have known the organization, in my limited experience, to be racist or sexist in the slightest degree: I am a white male that failed, then passed.
While I can understand the claims, given the times, I fear that they are visceral rather than facts based.
Bottom line, I do not think the organization is racist or sexist, but it is worth looking at. And, if we are going to look at it, it must be based on data. Last time I checked Laura Maniec (Fiorvanti) was the most “celebrity” Somm. So that flies hard against any sexist narrative, for example.

    10th October 2020 at 6:15 am

    I’m just curious. As a white male, do you feel like your experiences of racism and sexism might be limited by your race and gender? Historically, white males have been at the top of the totem pole. How, then, could you know what injustice looks like? Also, having a women as a token female “celebrity” somm proves nothing against the daily slights of sexism and racism that corrode mental health and drive for people who actually have to deal with this issue i.e. not you white man!

    Depressing someone still needs to explain this sort of basic shit to you – maybe loosen up on those Burgundy notecards and learn a bit on how to be a decent human being. It will open up your eyes, I swear

S.. Montgomery
5th August 2020 at 6:39 am

I’ve read the article, the follow-up article, and all the comments. I have one simple observation:

The people who are defending CMSa are cherry-picking. They ignore most of the data and topics introduced but narrow in on the slivers of this article that they think they can discredit. That is intellectually dishonest and shows a very poor grasp of the deep and complex institutional programs that are highlighted in this article.

To see how flimsy their arguments are –and how tainted their logic is– all you have to do is change “Court of Master Sommeliers” with another professional certification board, the AICPA (Association of International Certified Professional Accountants).

If there was evidence that a board that certified accountants may be corrupt and politically biased, would you reflexively defend them? Or would you demand an investigation? What if that board ignored longstanding complaints of racism and sexism within the accounting profession? Would you defend them?

People and institutions have been canceled for much less evidence than shown here. I think their defenses are simply based on blatant tribalism: the very thing that this article –to my mind– has exposed.

1st August 2020 at 10:32 pm

I have been a woman in the fine dining / wine business for 40 years . I have been a Somm since 2006 . My experience with Court of Lords Master Sommeliers has been varied . I have been in the food and beverage business most of my life . Have I been sexually harassed ? You bet . Discriminated because of my sex ? Absolutely . The Good Old Boys are everywhere and they are being exposed . There are also women who falsely accuse men . I have seen that on multiple occasions .
I saw applicants who had the advantage of working along side Masters who benefited from their coaching , while I had to self study without the benefit of a private tutor . Is that fair ? Maybe . I do know that CMS does not make it easy to get into their club .
As far as the political bias . The last Master class I attended in Seattle was taught by a MS who was sharing his very Leftist views which I did not pay to hear and turned me away from ever attending another class by him . Not because of his politics , but because that was not the place for that to be aired . Political views are personal and like religion should be kept to yourself , not in a business setting . . Politics and the wine business have little in common so I don’t care how many Republicans or Democrat’s are on the Board . I just want them to be fair and professional .
Sommeliers have the reputation of being pretentious and a bit stuffy . That kind of goes with the fine dining industry as a whole . I think that is changing . I think that being gracious and more approachable sells more wine . During the service portion of the testing , the MS seem to enjoy being the most difficult customers , almost sadistically . They should probably work on that . Perception is reality .
As far as racist , My experience as a veteran of the industry is , in the heat of battle we have no color , you are judged by you ability ,how hard you work and your attitude , period . 4 Star Hotels in Hawaii , Ski resorts , Tribal Casino , Nevada Casino and National Parks , all the same , If you worked hard you got respect . Of course there are bad players , but on the whole people are people . We all want the same things . Care and comfort for our families and respect for the work we do .
I have respect for the CMS , that doesn’t mean that they don’t need to fix their obvious flaws , but you don’t need to” throw the baby out with the bathwater ” . I know that some people have bad experiences because they are unprepared for the enormity of the material that you are tested on . If it was easy, every wine swilling ” know it all ” would be a Somm .

Francis Chambers
24th July 2020 at 3:57 pm

Non-somm here, but male progressive democrat wine enthusiast with friends on the court. I have read both the article and the response page, and all I have to say is that while your points are important and potentially valid, to levy such heinous accusations at an organization with weak supporting documentation dismantles your points.

Without first hand knowledge myself, CMSA might have a race problem, but you did not establish that (an Instagram post as your evidence, and one that challenges the court but does not name it as a source of racism). Therefore, I can’t take that portion of your article seriously. And since it lead off your list of offenses, it immediately weakens any credibility you might have in your further points. Is diversity important? Absolutely. Should the board reflect the body it represents? Sure. But the article demeans the court as a whole and treats the board as an afterthought. Instead of saying “The Court is Racist!” say, “The court fails to represent.” Otherwise you’re just falling into the realms of sensationalist journalism tropes frequented by the likes of Breitbart or The Blaze.

Ditto “The Court has a Sexual Violence Problem.” Rather than citing anecdotal evidence, how about researching statistics on sexual violence in the workplace that pertains to alcohol sales and specifically wine. Such a blanket statement, and a lack of support, again disparages any other valid arguments you might have. Again, is sexual violence in the workplace bad? Absolutely. Do you convince me that the Court has a sexual violence problem? Not in the least.

Ditto “The Sensationalist Republican Headline.” Are Republicans bad? Absolutely. Wait . . . that’s my liberal progressive democrat coming through. No they aren’t. I felt that this portion was your strongest section. You cited statistics! But, it fails to connect to our headline. “Is it time to boycott the Court?” The entirety of your article is about aiming for diversity and representation amongst the board, and while that is absolutely a noble argument and a fantastic idea, that’s not what you tried to sell me in the headline, or in these section headlines. Additionally, your argument about representation fails to tell me what percentage of the actual court body is democrat vs. republican, vs. independent, vs. communist, vs. etc.

Cheating is wrong. It happened. No, we don’t know if it happened prior to this particular occurrence, but again, zero evidence is provided to suggest anything other than favoritism. While favoritism can lead to cheating, which it did in this particular instance, nothing suggests that this is repetitive. Certainly an investigation into cheating would be a welcome way to dispel any uncertainty remaining, but it is the court’s prerogative to allow one or not and take whatever knock to their credibility that may come.

As far as the court fulfilling its non-profit status, you quote them as saying “The Court of Master Sommeliers was established to encourage improved standards of beverage knowledge and service in hotels and restaurants. Education was then, and remains today, the Court’s charter.” Isn’t this what they do? Isn’t this why their expenses are lodging and travel? How else are they supposed to teach a cadre of young somms if they don’t travel to where they are? Without a further breakdown and forensic analysis, I’m not sure you’ve convinced me that they are some sort of nefarious, pocket-stuffing coven, which seems to be your unwritten suggestion. As well, based on the quoted charter, the court doesn’t seem to be founded on the same principles as the AHLA, so why should they be held to the same standard?

And finally, this is the heart of your article (and it unfortunately doesn’t show up until your response article):

“We do not have a political agenda, as some have claimed. We simply want sommeliers to take a long and hard look at the CMSa and demand that it does better. We are not asking for a lot.

We are asking for its board of directors to reflect it’s members. Sommeliers are not just white male Republicans.
We are asking for the Court to address the ongoing scandals that threaten to tarnish everyone who is a member.
We are asking the Court to address the racism and sexual violence within our trade.
If the Court can’t address these issues, then maybe it is time to boycott the Court of Master Sommeliers until they address these systematic shortcomings.”

But this isn’t the premise of the original article as presented; it’s buried at the end of each section. An article rooted in these ideas might have validity had you not stumbled so much in your efforts to arrive here. Your evidence was lacking, you failed to provide an accurate statistical representation of the body of somms represented by the board, and thus are not providing convincing arguments that the board doesn’t represent the actual court. Your concerns are valid and should be addressed, but the vehicle for doing so should be much more convincing. Perhaps you should go back to the drawing board and craft an article more worthy of consideration.

11th July 2020 at 12:41 pm

Who is this G Osborne and who cares? She’s anti-male and anti-sommelier. She probably failed the exam and is asshurt. She couldn’t hack it if she tried. We can never EVER give in to the shrill libtards who want to take our jobs.

    21st July 2020 at 7:56 pm

    The fact that you would use the term “libtard” is digusting, amoral and repugnant and you should never work in the service industry period. You’re disgusting and if you’re a member of the CMS you should be stripped of any certifications. Period.

9th July 2020 at 1:02 pm

I agree that this article is inflammatory and ill advised. Free speech is not absolute, you can not yell FIRE! in a crowded theater. These are opinions and conjecture without supporting facts. As a Master of Wine (MW) candidate and person of color I believe this entire outlook is absolute insanity. Getting to this level requires hard work, dedication, and a level of sacrifice only seen in a few professional programs. The CMS, WSET, MW, and most other professional wine organizations are demanding you must make the commitment to succeed. I also agree with previous comments about the difficulty to access jobs in the industry for ANYONE, regardless of ethnicity or background. I also believe that automatically assuming a person, business, or organization is immediately evil because they are Republican shows a level of ignorance that ironically is what they are complaining about. No American, for any reason, needs to choose sides or condemn people or organizations because they disagree with their point of view, NO ONE. Of course, I am against sexual violence (being a victim), as well as hate and prejudice (being a victim), but to look at the world and this organization in such a narrow minded, ignorant, and purely fascist way makes you no better than what you are fighting against.

    Uncorked and Decanted
    18th July 2020 at 5:58 pm

    We felt it was important to give you a voice. Please check out our follow-up here. https://somm.us/opposing-viewpoints-from-the-sommelier-community/

    21st July 2020 at 8:04 pm

    Your statement is about as well composed as a chipmunk trying to avoid highway traffic. You’re calling facts conjecture when you yourself offer no evidence to the contrary. And given the current state of the Republican Party (racist, homophobic, climate deniers, science deniers- ALL facts by the way) for you to suggest that the article is somehow wrong for calling this out is beyond ridiculous. Wake up. Educate yourself. You can’t stand up for a “Court of Masters” who are at the same time accepting money from climate science deniers, racists and bigots. The percentages don’t lie and either do the very public donations that were clearly laid out in the aforementioned article. So your argument is a failed attempt at defending the indefensible. Now go and get an education before you open your mouth about a subject you don’t seem to grasp even on a basic level. What an embarrassment. Grow up and learn.

9th July 2020 at 11:52 am

This seems to me a terribly written article from somebody who has no interest in responsible journalism. As both a female and a Democrat, I do not believe a boycott is reasonable, and it detracts and demeans those in CMS who have devoted hundreds of hours to the pursuit of wine knowledge. It’s ridiculous to hold individuals responsible for the donations or political leanings of the company they are employed by. I also don’t agree with the claim that you have to know the “right” people to succeed, since I had NO master sommelier recommendation letters and still got into the exams. However, what I did do was study hard, take any position (paid or otherwise) to gain experience, and work my ass off. It’s hard to break into the wine industry, and I got a plethora of rejection letters along the way. However, to blame the Court for the harassment of women in the wine industry and various other offenses listed, without so much as mentioning the disparities of giant wine corporations such as Constellation or other educational routes such as WSET or CWE, is both irresponsible and biased.

    Uncorked and Decanted
    18th July 2020 at 5:58 pm

    We felt it was important to give you a voice. Please check out our follow-up here. https://somm.us/opposing-viewpoints-from-the-sommelier-community/

    21st July 2020 at 8:09 pm

    I’m sorry but what do the disparities of giant wine corporations have to do with a Court which largely consists of older white men who are accepting money from climate science deniers and racists? You may be a female and a Democrat but your blind defense to protect your own pin is ridiculous. Are you telling me that you’re okay with having your pin as the men that put it on your chest are supporting the very causes that are further destroying the planet and marginalizing races at the same time? With all due respect your shiny pin blinds you from the truth.

27th June 2020 at 7:17 am

There are some insanely irresponsible and weak arguments in this article. It may be one of the most poorly written ones I’ve seen so far. If I’m reading this right, you are somehow responsible for your employer’s political views? Also, does the author have evidence about sexual violence as it directly relates to the court? If so I would be interested to see that. But it doesn’t seem to be in the article

    Uncorked and Decanted
    27th June 2020 at 9:32 am

    Sounds like you are a member of the CMSA. The Court’s status as a 501(c)(6) non-profit requires them to behave in a specific fashion.

    Here’s the law:
    “its activities should be directed to the improvement of business conditions of one or more lines of business as distinguished from the performance of particular services for individual persons.” 26 CFR § 1.501(c)(6)-1 – Business leagues, chambers of commerce, real estate boards, and boards of trade.

    As a trade organization, they are obligated to improve the working conditions of the trade, not individuals. Since they claim to be the defacto certification body for sommeliers, they bear responsibilities for the actions within that group. Can we know which one of the rapists was a CMSA member? No. Does the CMSA need to make a stand on violence against women in the sommelier field? Yes, absolutely fucking yes.

    A master sommelier can work anywhere they want, so why does nearly every master sommelier who is a member of the board work for Republican-led organizations? People need to know the choices the board of directors has made. The fact that CMSA directly takes money from them goes to show that CMSA is a deeply politicized non-profit. and that is information people have a right to know.

      Steven McDonald
      27th June 2020 at 10:34 pm

      I think G Osborne hasn’t taken a journalism class in their life. The author’s arguments are non-sequiturs and their basic misunderstanding of how non-profits work lead them to sensationalist conclusions. If you want to have a real conversation, please DM me.

      21st July 2020 at 8:11 pm

      Amen and thank you.

    Uncorked and Decanted
    18th July 2020 at 5:59 pm

    We felt it was important to give you a voice. Please check out our follow-up here. https://somm.us/opposing-viewpoints-from-the-sommelier-community/

20th June 2020 at 8:21 am

There have been whispers about the CMS ever since I started working as a somm. If you don’t know the right people, you wont get your pin. Its about time they were taken down a notch.

    Brandon Tebbe, MS
    29th October 2020 at 7:21 am

    Whispers are not facts. They are usually derive from individuals scorned over not passing some level of the exams. Perhaps before deciding to take down an organization over rumor and conjecture….take part in CMS with an open mind and see for yourself what is fact and fiction.

Leave a Comment