Feel honored if one offers to help you select your wine – as there are only a couple hundred of them worldwide.
You were already impressed by the restaurant, but now it just skyrocketed. You’ve just been told that a Master Sommelier will assist you with your wine selection.
You’ve heard the term. You know it means this person knows a lot about wine – a whole lot. But other than that, you’re not quite sure what this person can or should do when they show up at the table. Here’s what you should know.
Master Sommeliers are incredibly rare
The first thing you should know is that you’ll be talking wine with someone who has a designation that has been bestowed on only a couple hundred people worldwide. A Master Sommelier is someone who has earned a diploma by successfully passing a 3-part test given by the Court of Master Sommeliers.
It sounds like an organization that’s been around awhile, but it hasn’t. The Court of Master Sommeliers was established in 1977, though the first exam was given in 1969. Yes, for all the pomp and circumstance surrounding the name, this is actually an organization supported by the British Hotels & Restaurants Association, the Wine & Sprit Association of Great Britain, and the Wholesale Tobacco Trade Association.
Which is why the Master Sommelier about to arrive at your table also will be highly knowledgeable about beer and cigars.
What it takes to be a Master Sommelier
In order to earn this rare and exclusive degree, one must pass all 3 sections of a difficult exam:
The test is so difficult that most candidates must take it anywhere from 2 to 6 times before passing all 3 parts.
4 steps to mastership
The Court of Master Sommeliers has 4 levels of certification.
Don’t be misled
There are actually 2 coveted credentials for those who seek to be an acknowledged wine expert. The first is the Master Sommelier (MS), and then there is the Masters of Wine (MW).
This second credential is awarded by the Institute of Masters of Wine. It’s just as exacting in terms of the knowledge that must be amassed. The biggest difference is that someone who holds a MW credential will know more about the entire wine industry, from growers to the general consumer.
The test is similar to the one given to a Master Sommelier. There’s a theory exam, as well as a blind tasting. The final part is more scholarly, though. Each candidate must write a research paper about a wine-related topic. It has to be between 6,000 and 10,000 words in length.
Which credential would be preferable in helping you choose your wine for the evening? Both are recognized as the highest credential awarded in the world of wine. So, individuals with either of these credentials would be extremely knowledgeable about the wines available.
A Master Sommelier, however, has taken an exam that certifies excellence in the hotel and restaurant beverage service. In other words, they may be more pleasant to talk to.