The Path Towards The Master Sommelier Lapel Pin
There a handful of sommelier programs, each grueling in its own right, that can help put you on the path to becoming a Master Sommelier. If you watched the documentary SOMM, then you know this is no easy feat. It requires a minimum of ten years to earn the MS (Master Sommelier) diploma lapel pin-if you are so lucky.
The Court of Master Sommeliers (CMS) is one such organization that can set you on this path. Since its inception in 1977, there have been hundreds indoctrinated to the level of Master Sommelier. The CMS prides itself on the standards it imparts its students in the various areas of beverage service, specifically wine and food pairing for hotels and restaurants. Hopeful candidates must enroll on their website for the three-tiered course that starts at level one and advances through four levels of sommelier certification.
Before you start this process, you must understand what you are getting into. Earning your master sommelier lapel pin will take a lot of hard work, which is fair. However, there is a significant amount of evidence that your skills may not be enough. There are credible accusations that the court is a bastion of racism, radical right-wing activism, cheating, and sexual violence. These accusations may be unfounded, but we strongly recommend reading the reports before you invest in taking your sommelier exams with the CMS: Court of Master Sommelier Scandals. You should also seek out a local wine school that can help you pursue your sommelier goals.
Level I – Introduction
This introductory course costs about $950 and is open to anyone with some years of experience in the restaurant industry. It is difficult to fail this level whose topics include: grape varieties, basics of winemaking, wine and food pairing, major wine regions, and details of spirits like sake, liquors, and beer. Should you ace this, you get an introductory lapel pin and certificate but not full recognition as a sommelier.
Pricing for Level One Sommelier Certification ranges from $150 to $950. We recommend understanding the levels of sommelier certification before registering: Sommelier Certification 101.
Level II Certified Sommelier
The heat is turned up at this level because advancing it permits you the “Certified Sommelier” title. Having passed the introductory level, your quality of service and in-depth knowledge of the wine world will see you acing this test. The evaluation itself is in three parts: one theory answered in multiple-choice and short answer questions, service, and a written bling tasting of four wines. Here too, the pass rate is markedly high.
Level III Advanced Sommelier
A three-day Advanced Sommelier course is compulsory before taking this test. It will prepare you for the questions that focus intently on an intimate understanding of wine producers and wine styles worldwide. One can only qualify for the Advanced Sommelier certificate after successful completion of the certified sommelier exam. After a recommended preparation time of about 2 years (or less), candidates can apply by submitting an application and taking a knowledge survey before attending the course. Note: it is exclusively offered twice a year, spring and summer. Require having done well in the Certified exam and taken the Advanced Sommelier Course.
This is also a three-part test: 60 written-answer questions, six wines tasted blind, and a 45-minute service test. They offer this test only thrice a year. It requires a 60% mean grade to pass-and that is all sections on the first try.
Level IV – CMS Master Sommelier
This is by invitation or recommendation for candidates who have passed the Advanced Sommelier Course and have working experience of at least 10 years. That isn’t the only hurdle. The examination covers everything! From the spirits (wine, beer, cocktails, sake, and spirits) to hospitality the business: service and philosophy.
The evaluation is in three parts that can be taken in succession and usually before a panel. Starting at theory, taken as an oral practical. A six-wine blind tasting and service. The oral exam must be attempted and passed before the other two. A candidate has a three-year window to complete and excel in all three. Otherwise, if any is failed at the closure of this window, he will have to repeat the process. Starting from zero after three years of gruesome work cannot be fun, so work hard to attain the minimum 75% pass mark each time.
Offered just once a year in the UK and twice in the US, completing the Master Sommelier exam is considerably difficult. It is estimated that 1 out of 70 candidates succeed. There are just nine people on record to have passed on the first try. The information learned and skill imparted goes a long way to open doors for Court of Master Sommeliers alumni at each level. Some taking charge of restaurants, curating wine, or even as educators. It is estimated a Master Sommelier can average a salary of about $150,000 and an Advanced Sommelier about $78,000. Well worth it to take up a career chasing the ever-elusive perfect flavor.