Master Sommelier Scandal: Was It Right To Strip 23 Master Sommeliers Of Their Titles? My POV

I am finally getting the chance to have a much needed conversation about this one…I’ve been so preoccupied with nesting and organizing, but here we are!

A few weeks back, I’d heard the news (on what else but Instagram) where 23 newly appointed master sommeliers were stripped of their titles because of a cheating scandal.

I was fresh out of the gates myself, of having crammed hours and hours for an exam (not wine related) and immediately felt empathetic to the innocent bystanders.

Can you imagine doing all that studying, finally passing it, and then getting the award taken away from you because of someone’s else’s poor decision?  I’ve seen Somm I and II (waiting for III to come out on Netflix!) therefore I know this is the mother of all wine exams. The Master Sommelier Examination is the test sommeliers take to become master sommeliers, the pinnacle achievement in a sommelier’s career. It requires years of practice and it is roughly $1,000 to take the exam. The exam consists of a verbal wine theory exam and a practical tasting. During the tasting portion, in 25 minutes the test-taker must “clearly and accurately describe” six different wines, including grape varieties, origin, and vintage.  

In early October, The Court of Master Sommeliers announced that one of it’s members who remains anonymous, disclosed confidential information pertinent to the practical tasting portion of the 2018 exam.  Therefore, they are revoking the master sommelier designation from 23 of the 24 people who had passed this year. Obviously, a huge deal seeing how only 274 people have passed the exam since its inception in 1969. And in case you are wondering, one person got to keep his title because he passed the tasting portion the previous year. 

I understand that this holds the standards and integrity of the court, however I feel that a more thorough investigation should have been done before disqualifying everyone from their titles.  I don’t even know these people, but I feel for them. It’s a real punch in the gut for the candidates who did NOT cheat. It sounds as though they will be given the opportunity to retake the exam, either later this year or in spring/summer 2019. The court will also refund the tasting fees for the 2018 tasting portion, all of the fees for the upcoming exams, and possibly travel expenses.

I am pleased to hear that at least 19 out of the 23 wrote a letter to the court (published in the Chicago Tribune) asking for a more thorough investigation process and hoping to come to an amicable decision.  It was denied. Of course corporations can do whatever they choose and what they feel is right, however that does not mean you can’t stick up for yourself and have a voice, which these participants did.

What do you think about how this all went down?  Should the 23 have been stripped of the opportunity to pass?  Am I off base with my POV and there is more to it then pass or fail here with this exam?

I would love to hear from you.

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