Hello everyone I would like to have an open discussions about how hard is to become a Master Sommelier.
Since the foundation of the Court of Master Sommilier in the 70's only 257 have passed successfully the exam and been acknowledge as Master Sommielier.
If we take a look back 40 years since the first exam towards today the wine world is completely different since then. Back in the 70's the world just started to heal from WW 2 devastating affects and through the market still had boycotts, agriculture just re-started (as example Australia. the renewal of viticulture just begun) and simply less geographic areas have been asked, less regions considered as classics wines or to put it in short - a Master Sommelier required to know less (maybe even less then an Advance sommelier today?).
On the other hand, back then to acquire knowledge in today terms can be consider "Mission: Impossible". Much less books, much harder to put hands on the latest info, wines and vintages. There was no people like Jancis Robinson, Fred Dame, Hugh Johnson, Gerard Basset, all of those who we, the young somms consider as Gods on earth. They didn't have anyone to mentor them. Today any beginner somm can just google and order from home in pajamas few books, get a membership in a website like this and to know the latest news. Much more approachable in one click distance.
In my opinion, even though the info today is much more approachable and much easy to acquire it is harder then the 70's. To able to know by heart all of this massive amount of info, a true passion is needed, because there is much more sexy jobs out there, with normal hours, high pay grade and much less exhausting then 50+ hours a week on your legs running around the venue and late night finish time.
What do you think?
I passed the intro and advanced within 3 months of each other back in 1990 at the age of 25. I was one of a handful of women in the intro and the only woman in the advanced seminar and exam. We had no early prep for the intro. I bought Brian Julyan's book at the seminar then pulled an all nighter studying and reading the book. I was fortunate enough to be able to taste with many of the OG Master Somms in my tasting group. Finding the info took a lot of work and money back then. Amazon and other discount book places did not exist. Locating the wines that would be common in the UK market was difficult. Now that the exam is much more international, the wines are not limited to the UK market and the availability in general is much greater. Finally, financially it was a greater hardship. Now, many jobs offer an education stipend as part of a compensation package. The was no Somm foundation offering scholarships. I had to figure out how to pay for it all making a whopping $6.50/hour, which was a good salary for retail back in 1990.
I am sitting for the Master Sommelier theory exam this July because I feel the need to finish what had started. Yes, there is more info to know now, but after 30 years in the wine business, but I have had to learn a lot of it to effectively do my job. I still do not have a job that pays any money for the exam, but at least they are not making me use my pto for the examination days. I applied for a scholarship for the first time ever. Let's hope that my age will not take me out of the running for it. Now, not only do people know what the exam is, they appreciate the effort and the honor to be selected for the MS exam. Finally, the level of support for someone studying is amazing. GulidSomm, MS's personal website, groups on social media, and the list goes on and on... Maybe if I had had all this back then, I would have been able to put together the money and the time to finish.
Regardless... kudos to all who have passed an exam at whatever level...Good luck and all my support to those taking an exam at whatever level.