There are many different certifying bodies in the world of wine. While there are many similarities, there are also distinct differences. The different focus of these organizations makes it difficult, if not impossible, to compare the different levels of certification between them. Two of the main organizations are the Court of Master Sommeliers and the Society of Wine Educators.
“The Court of Master Sommeliers was established in 1977 to promote excellence in hotel and restaurant beverage service. Though its members worldwide come from diverse backgrounds and experiences, they share a proven mastery of the art, science, and history that informs a sommelier’s work.”
The Court of Master Sommeliers is probably the best known organization in the eye of the public. A Sommelier life is on stage and in front of people as a humble servant and host. Thanks to a movie and a couple of TV shows, the modern day Master Sommelier is soon to be enjoying a similar celebrity status as many of the world’s top Chefs. A Master sommelier looks at the world of wine in an enormous breadth and detail, but only digs down so deep, often ignoring many viticulture practices and the science behind the wine, but placing a greater degree of emphasis on service and showmanship.
Intro exam– The intent of the Introductory Sommelier Course is to provide wine and hospitality professionals with a thorough review to the world of wines and spirits at the highest professional standards. This is meant to be a first look into the Court and its expectations, not a certification, and has an average pass rate of 95%
Certified exam – This is a comprehensive exam covering a written theory test, blind tasting and simulated service environment intended to test the basic skills and knowledge of a sommelier according to the courts standards. It has an average pass rate of 60%
Advanced Exam – Similar in format to the certified exam, it requires professional recommendations for attendance. The test is to distinguish the leading talent in the service industry. There are 3 exams given annually and has an average pass rate of less than 25%
Master – Considered by many to be the most difficult certification of any profession to achieve. The exam is given once a year and attendance is by invitation only. Currently there are 147 masters in the US and 230 worldwide. Annually there are between 0 and 10 new masters crowned with many candidates taking years of attempts before either achieving the title or moving on.