Sommeliers lose certification after cheating scandal

Pour them a glass of whine.

Nearly two dozen newly minted master sommeliers learned Tuesday that they were being stripped of their diplomas in light of “clear evidence” that one or more cork-happy connivers cheated on the final.

The Court of Master Sommeliers, the Napa, Calif.-based organization that oversees the exam and is known throughout the wine industry for setting the global standard of excellence in elite hospitality training, says in a statement that the scandal concerns the tasting portion of the three-part test, during which candidates must swish obscure samples and correctly name each wine’s grape variety, vintage, country, district and appellation of origin.

Someone apparently spilled advance details of which vinos would be in the tasting panel, sharing the information with an unknown number of candidates. Now all 23 passing students are having their test results nullified.

The exam is known for its 92 percent failure rate. Just 274 somms have reportedly passed since its inception in 1969. In addition to tasting, the test has sections devoted to theory and service. It’s so grueling, wannabe wine experts get three years to complete it.

A title of Master Sommelier is practically a prerequisite for landing a plum job at a world-class restaurant. The wine programs at Eleven Madison Park, the Modern and the Pool are all led by certified masters.

Only one student in the class of 2018, who passed the tasting section last year, retained his title in the wake of the revelations.

“We are committed to developing an expedited process so that all eligible candidates can retake the tasting examination,” says Court of Master Sommeliers board director Devon Broglie in the statement.
Nevertheless, some members of the class are calling for the organization to name the rogues.

“It would be nice if the Court could tell us who the [cheater] is so reputations aren’t ruined and false accusations are not circulating,” writes deposed sommelier Ryan Freeman in a Facebook post. “This does more damage to the Court.”

Scardonnay, anyone?

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