The news ricocheted across the enocentric internet yesterday afternoon: in a press release issued by the Court of Master Sommeliers Americas, the group announced that its board had “unanimously voted to invalidate the results of the tasting portion of the [September 5] 2018 Master Sommelier Diploma Examination for all candidates due to clear evidence that a Master breached the confidentiality with respect to the wines presented for tasting.”
Wine writer for the San Francisco Chronicle Esther Mobley broke the story in the mainstream media yesterday evening. Her piece includes background info on how the court works and how the exams are administered.
And New York-based sommelier and wine writer Courtney Schiessl published this excellent post on the developing story for the wine trade portal and blog SevenFifty. She reports that “23 newly-minted Master Sommeliers [had their] tasting results revoked.” Of the 24 who recently passed the three-part exam, only one retained his title, she writes, because he had previously completed the tasting portion.
According to the Court’s press release, “the Board of Directors found sufficient evidence that the tasting portion of the 2018 Master Sommelier Diploma Examination was compromised by the release of detailed information concerning wines in the tasting flight.”
“The tasting portion is what first made the exam the object of popular fascination,” writes Mobley. “In 25 minutes, a candidate must taste six wines, blind, and identify each one’s grape variety, region of origin and vintage.”
One of the Master Sommeliers who lost their titles lives with his family around the corner from our house here in southwest Houston. He’s one of the most beloved and respected wine professionals working in our city. I’ve sat with him in blind tastings and have watched him ace the wines without even breaking a sweat. Our kids go to school together and we eat at the same breakfast place. He is one of the nicest and most talented people working in a business where niceness and ability don’t always go together. I admire him immensely and am devastated to learn that his much deserved title has been snatched away from him by a cheat.
Master Sommeliers do so much to foster wine education and appreciation in this country. As mentors to young wine professionals pursuing careers in the culinary arts, they set a standard of conduct and excellence in their industry. I applaud the Court for its transparency and I wish them speed in cleaning house. And I grieve for their erstwhile members whose perseverance and sacrifice have been sullied by a swindler.