A Scandal of Somm Sort

by wjw on October 27, 2018

As those of us who’ve seen the movie Somm or the TV series Uncorked will attest, there is an organization called the Court of Master Sommeliers which offers restaurant wine stewards a number of ranks leading up to Master Sommelier, a rank which will guarantee the winners a well-paid job at a posh restaurant.

The only hurdle is a fiendishly difficult exam which only 249 people have passed in the entire history of the organization, which was founded in the UK in 1977.  There’s an oral test on “wine theory,” whatever that is, a test on service skills, and a blind taste test, in which candidates are given 25 minutes to identify six wines, three white and three red.  And by “identify” they mean type, age, country of origin, region, and “the level of the winery,” whatever that means.

This year a record 24 people passed the test and were given the title of Master.  But— Holy Bottle Shock, Batman!— 23 certificates were revoked as it was revealed that one of the exam’s proctors had leaked information about some of the wines in the blind taste.

The resulting appeals, complaints, and threats of lawsuit have cast a light on the Court’s opaque practices— you never get a score, so you never find out where you went wrong or how badly— and at the very least the scandal has raised a colossal amount of bad feeling in and about the Court and its aspirants.

I love a good free-for-all, particularly if it involves pretentious people and arcane knowledge in a field that I don’t actually care about.  So as I stand clear of the fallout, I’ll cheer as I raise a glass of jug wine poured in a 10-oz. tumbler.

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