Court of Master Sommeliers

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Court of Master Sommeliers
Court of Master Sommeliers Logo.jpg

The Court of Master Sommeliers (CMS) is an educational organisation established in April 1977 to encourage improved standards of beverage service, particularly wine and food pairing, in hotels and restaurants. From the Court's inception through 2017, a worldwide total of 229 persons earned its Master Sommelier diploma, the highest level.[1]


The first Master Sommelier examination was held in the United Kingdom in 1969; the Court of Master Sommeliers was later established as an international examining body for sommeliers. It was set up under the supervision of the Vintners Company, The Institute of Masters of Wine, The British Hotels & Restaurants Association, The Wine & Spirit Association of Great Britain, and The Wholesale Tobacco Trade Association.[2]

In 1984, Fred Dame was the first person ever to pass all three parts of the Master Sommelier examination at once, which is called winning the Krug Cup.[3][4][5]

In 1986 the first Master Sommelier exams were held in the United States. The American Chapter of the CMS was established under the name Court of Master Sommeliers Americas, and also conducts exams and workshops in Canada.[6]

Education and certification[edit]

The court has four levels of certification that grow in depth and complexity with each level.[7] Those who achieve each level are awarded a certificate and badge on the same day as the exam.

Level I – Introductory[edit]

Open to anyone with several years experience in the restaurant industry, this level consists of two days of classes followed by a multiple choice exam that typically has a low failure rate. Topics covered include but are not limited to: winemaking basics, grape varieties, the major wine regions, wine and food pairing, and the very basic details of beer, sake, and liquors. Passing the Introductory Sommelier Course does not confer the "Sommelier" professional title.[8] Persons passing the exam do receive an “Introductory” lapel pin and certificate. The Introductory Course and Examination costs £550.

Level II – Certified Sommelier[edit]

This level was created in December 2005 to bridge the gap between the Introductory and Advanced levels.[9] It is only open to those who have passed the Introductory level, and focuses a great deal more on service and more in-depth knowledge of the world of wine. The exam has three parts: theoretical consisting of multiple choice and short answer questions, a written blind tasting of four wines (two white and two red), and service. The minimum score to pass is 60%.[10] The Certified Sommelier Examination costs $595 in the US.[11] The Court of Master Sommeliers, USA reports that on average 66% of applicants pass the Certified Examination.[12]

Level III – Advanced Sommelier[edit]

Testing for the Advanced Sommelier certificate requires having passed the Certified exam and taken the Advanced Sommelier Course. The three day Advanced Course is offered twice per year, usually in the spring and summer, and requires the candidate to first submit an application and take a timed knowledge survey. There is a heavier focus on service and a more intimate knowledge of all wine styles and regions as well as wine producers themselves is required. The Court generally recommends 1–2 years of preparation after successfully passing the Certified exam. The Advanced exam is generally offered three times per year.

The examination is a written test with multiple choice and 60 short answer questions, a blind tasting of 6 wines in 25 minutes, and a 45 minute service test. The minimum pass mark is 60% in each section, and all three sections must be passed together.[13]

Level IV – Master Sommelier[edit]

Those who wish to take the Master Sommelier exam must have passed the Advanced exam, be invited and/or recommended to sit the exam and have typically worked in the industry for at least 10 years. The exam covers all aspects of the world and industry of wine, beer, spirits/cocktails, and hospitality from a business, service and philosophical approach. The three part, oral exam consists of theory (must be passed before taking the other two parts), blind tasting six wines before a panel, and service; the three sections do not need be attempted at once. It is allowed to take the blind tasting and service exam in successive years. Once the first portion is passed, a candidate has a three year window, starting with the first attempt, to pass all three portions i.e. a candidate can pass one part each year for about three consecutive years and successfully become a Master. If all three parts are not passed in the three year window the candidate resets to zero and must retake all parts. The minimum score for each of the three sections to pass is 75% at the Master Sommelier level.[14] The typical pass rate at the Master Sommelier exam is around 3%-8% of applicants; in some instances as few as 1 in 70 have succeeded.[15][16] The Master Sommelier exam is offered twice per year in the US and once per year in the UK. On average candidates sit for the exam two to three times, and some take the test as many as six times.[17] Only nine people have ever passed the Master level on the first try. Some attempt the exam up to a dozen times before passing.

Notable Master Sommeliers[edit]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]