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Is The Test Getting Easier? Ask The 11 New Master Sommeliers.

Lots of people ask me if I've ever considered "going for my Masters of Wine," as if it's a class run out of the Berkeley Extension, or something one might do over 5 years as a correspondence course. I always smile in reply and tell them I'd be more likely to get my doctorate in quantum physics first. Do you know how hard it is to become a Master Sommelier? So hard that there are only about sixty of them in the US. Er... make that seventy-three as of last week. Rich over at The Wine Cellar pointed out that a couple of days ago 11 new Master Sommeliers were minted in San Francisco. That's like an increase of twenty percent !! Maybe the test is getting easier. It would have to get a heck of a lot easier, though, to stop me from quaking in my boots. I think the final exam is something like an hour of oral questioning about everything wine, a major multiple choice quiz, and then (get this) blind identification of a dozen or so wines by varietal, region and vintage. Holy cow. I have a hard enough time trying to guess whether there has been any Petite Verdot blended into my Zinfandel without looking at the label!

In any case, a hearty congratulations to the new Master Sommeliers of the world, may you go off and make the wine world a happier place for all of us.

Comments (5)

enoch choi wrote:
03.09.05 at 2:35 PM

none of the new MoW made the Chron today, though! who knows if any of them can write? congrats on making the article...

Michelle wrote:
03.09.05 at 4:03 PM

Very nice mention in the SFgate.com -- kind of an artsy photo! Hello from Phuket where I'm on holiday after INSEAD finals... let me know if there are any restaurant gems I should be hitting while I'm here ;-)

Fatemeh wrote:
03.09.05 at 5:15 PM

Alder -

Did you see my post about my friend Melanie? She didn't pass last time, and as I understand it, most people don't pass the first time out.

From time to time, she'll recount some portion of the exam, and I'm floored that she can even THINK of putting herself through that.

For example, she must take her own stemware, and says that some people coming to take the exam from across the country ship 2-3 CASES of stemware, in case of breakage.

Then, of course, you have no idea what varietal is going to be poured, so you need to select the most "neutral" (she tastes in Riedel Zin/Chianti stems).

Next, you have... I think it's 30 minutes, to write an essay about the wine, breaking it down to varietal, appellation, vinification method, year.

Fascinating stuff, but I quiver in my shoes when I think about the stress.

Ben wrote:
03.31.05 at 5:48 PM

Hey. I'm slightly ignorant about these tests. Are the MW and Master Sommelier tests the same thing? I thought they were different, although I don't know what sets them apart.

Anybody educate me here?

Alder wrote:
03.31.05 at 6:03 PM


Good question, which I didn't initially know the answer to -- I thought they were the same thing. But the Internet is an amazing thing. Here's the scoop:

The Institute for the Masters of Wine hands out diplomas for the degree called "Master of Wine" and its graduates are legally allowed to use the "MW" abbreviation in their title. There are 245 of these folks around the world.

The Court of Master Sommeliers is a different organization entirely and they offer a degree program called Master Sommelier, and their graduates can legally use the "MS" abbreviation in their title. There are about 70 people in the US and 122 in the UK who have this title.

So now that we've gotten that straight, I wonder which one is harder. Do they have yearly duels, like the old Harvard vs. Yale rivalry?

If they don't someone should make it happen. We could televise it on ESPN.

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