Monday, February 28, 2005

So You Want to be a Master Sommelier

Q. What wine society has only 118 members world-wide? And 60 in the U.S?
The Court of Master Sommeliers

Why would one join this elite fraternity?

  • Your affinity for wine, food, service and hospitality is beyond that of most mortals
  • You'd like the Master Sommelier Certification as a passport to notoriety and opportunities for wealth in the food and wine service industry

How can one become certifed? Its simple, really. Just a little three part certification - introductory, advanced and Master Sommelier Diploma - as follows:

Part 1: Introductory Certification
Topics covered include: world wine regions including appellation regulations, viticulture, wine/spirit production, food & wine pairing, wine service and wine tasting skills. Certification at this level requires passing a multiple choice exam with at least 60% of answers correct.

Prior to taking the next step, the Court warns that one should be able to,"recite from memory facts such as Grands Crus of the Cote de Nuits, the satellites of St. Emilion, the districts of Chianti, the AVAs of Sonoma County, or the Bereiche of the Rheinhessen".

Part II: Advanced Certification
Topics covered are the same as the introductory course, however in much more depth and detail. Certification is in three steps. First is the one hour, 82 question (20 multiple choice and 62 short answer) writtten exam.

Second, a blind tasting of six wines in front of two Master Sommeliers. The candidate has 25 minutes to identify all six wines and is evaluated on technique and accuracy.

Third and last, is an obstacle course in restaurant service. Master Sommolier examiners throw the kitchen sink at candidates as they run the gauntlet of opening, decanting and serving wines, spirts and cigars; pair wine with food; set tables; and manage the duties of practical service and salesmanship. Once again, 60% is required to pass on all three steps.

Part III: Master Sommelier Diploma
The format for the final Master Sommelier Diploma is the same as the Advanced Certification. At this stage, a score of 75% is required to pass. Testing is by invitation only and one must wait one year after Advanced Certification before attempting the Master Sommelier diploma.

The level of detail is excruciatingly difficult. For example, during the blind tasting, a candidate must identify grape varieties, country of origin, district of origin and vintages for the six wines tasted.

Over the 25+ year history of Master Sommelier Diploma, the pass rate for the final stage is around 3%. Good luck!