Court of Master Sommeliers


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The Court of Master Sommeliers

The Court of Master Sommeliers (CMS) was founded in April 1977 to establish higher standards of service within the hospitality industry, particularly in the realms of wine and cuisine pairing. This initiative involved several trade groups and wine companies in England, including the Vintners Company, The British Hotels & Restaurants Association, the Wine & Spirit Association of Great Britain, and the Wholesale Tobacco Trade Association.

Court Of Master Sommelier Americas
Court Of Master Sommelier Americas

The CMS is renowned for its rigorous Master Sommelier exam, which is often touted as the most demanding test of its kind globally. This exam has gained recognition through media such as the documentary film “SOMM” and the TV show “Uncorked.”

“In the future,” commented Mr. Gazzi, “Britain’s wine butlers will have the opportunity to attain a Master Sommelier’s Diploma, demonstrating their expertise. This will be accessible to practicing wine butlers with at least five years’ experience who are guild members.” (Reference: BREWING TRADE REVIEW, 1969, FIRST PUBLISHED REFERENCE TO A MASTER SOMMELIER EXAM)

Professional wine schools offer a range of certifications, spanning from introductory levels (level 1&2) to the highest level (level 5). A comprehensive breakdown of these certification levels can be found here: Sommelier Certifications.

Serious Issues with the Master Sommelier Program

Notably, the Court of Master Sommeliers Americas has trademarked the term “Master Sommelier” to prevent other institutions from using this title. A comparison of these programs is available here: Comparison of Sommelier Courses.

Criticisms have been directed towards the Court of Master Sommeliers over the years:

  1. Exam process irregularities: Some candidates have reported instances of cheating, unfair grading, and inconsistencies in the exam process. (Source: Decanter)
  2. Lack of diversity: Accusations have arisen that the Court lacks inclusivity and has not sufficiently attracted and retained a diverse membership. (Source: The Washington Post)
  3. High cost of certification: The expense associated with becoming a certified sommelier has been criticized, particularly concerning the Master Sommelier exam. (Source: Decanter)
  4. Elitism and nepotism: The Court has faced criticism for promoting elitism and fostering a culture of nepotism, where opportunities are seemingly limited to a select few. (Source: The Washington Post)
  5. Lack of transparency: Criticisms regarding the Court’s lack of transparency in decision-making and the appeals process have emerged. (Source: Decanter)

It’s worth noting that the Court has taken measures to address some of these criticisms and is actively working towards improving the organization.

The Court of Master Sommeliers Cheating Scandal revealed that the exam had been compromised, involving individuals sharing confidential information about the test, leading to the nullification of the Master Sommelier certification for the entire class of 2018. Further recent scandals, including allegations of racism and sexual violence, are detailed here: Master Sommelier Scandals.

The origin of the Master Sommelier designation predates the Court of Master Sommeliers, as it was initially developed by The Guild of Sommeliers in 1969. The Guild pioneered sommelier accreditation, with the first Master Sommelier exam taking place during that year.

Court Of Master Sommelier Tasting
Court Of Master Sommelier Tasting

Becoming a Master Sommelier

Regarding the cost of becoming a Master Sommelier, as of 2023, the total expenses for the required exams amounted to $2,910. However, the actual cost of earning the Master Sommelier pin exceeded $20,000 due to various hidden fees, including expenses for wine, travel, and exam retakes.

Unlike other wine certification agencies, the Court does not operate a wine school but instead offers seminars and exams conducted in hotel conference rooms.

The Court’s exams vary in difficulty and content:

  • Certified Sommelier Exam (Level 3 Sommelier Certification): This exam includes a written theory section, a blind tasting, and a practical exam.
  • Advanced Sommelier Exam (Level 4 Sommelier Certification): This more challenging exam consists of a written theory section, a blind tasting, and a practical exam, and is known for its low pass rate.
  • Master Sommelier Exam (Level 5 Sommelier Certification): The most demanding of all, this exam comprises verbal theory, blind tasting, and a practical section. The pass rate is exceedingly low.

Is the Court For You?

Pros and cons of pursuing certification through the Court of Master Sommeliers are presented, with highlights including the organization’s prestige and well-designed exams, along with criticisms such as high failure rates, limited educational opportunities, substantial costs, lack of grading transparency, and absence of accreditation or oversight.

The Court of Master Sommeliers plays a significant role in certifying wine experts, but it has faced criticism and scrutiny in various aspects of its operations and exams.

2 Reviews for Court of Master Sommeliers

Mathew A. 14 Reviews
Make up your own mind

Let’s not let the woke dictate our thoughts. personally, I find the court too obnoxious for words. Wine don’t need snobs

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MJ 38 Reviews
Be Wary

Read up on this outfit before you start down the path of becoming a master sommelier.

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