Inside The Master Sommelier Scandal

Find out why two dozen newly minted master sommeliers lost their designation

Oenophiles should be concerned as a scandal has rocked the wine world. This week, the board which governs the various sommelier designations, the Court of Master Sommeliers, announced it was stripping the MS (Master Sommelier) degree from 23 of 24 people who passed the exam this year.

Eater says that this week an email was sent to all master sommeliers from CMS board chairman Devon Broglie that a CMS member had “disclosed confidential information pertinent to the tasting portion of the 2018 Master Sommelier Diploma Examination prior to the examination.”

This is huge considering that since its inception in 1969, only 274 people have passed the complicated test that is the subject of the documentary Somm, which can be seen on Netflix. Prospective master sommeliers study for years to sit for the prestigious and costly exam.

While the name of the CMS member who leaked the test has not been made public yet, the CMS board does know who the person is. Right now it’s unclear what the punishment will be, but most likely the person will be stripped of their MS and banned from CMS events.

The board says they had no other choice but to strip all who passed the test of the designation with the exception of Morgan Harris, who had passed the tasting portion the year before.

Harris says he doesn’t know who might have cheated.

“I just can’t imagine in what universe you would work so hard to achieve something that you’re then actively invalidating.”

The CMS says it will make retaking the exam as easy as possible as they know that everyone who passed the exam did not cheat. There will be two opportunities to retake the tasting part of the test, fees will be refunded, and there will be help with travel expenses.

Broglie defends the decision to strip the MS from the 23 candidates.

“Maintaining the integrity of the examination process must be our highest priority, lest we risk diminishing the value of, and the respect earned from, becoming a Master Sommelier.”

The Washington Post says that one of the members of the Court of Master Sommeliers “breached the confidentiality” by sharing “detailed information concerning wines in the tasting flight” before the exam to one or more candidate. The board has voted unanimously to bar the master in question and terminated their membership in the organization.

Broglie added that as an organization, they can’t risk letting someone through who did not earn the designation.

“Our credential is known throughout the hospitality industry worldwide, and it guarantees that the holder of the Master Sommelier title is among the most qualified of all wine industry professionals. A compromised examination does not provide that guarantee.”

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