"To apply for the ADVANCED COURSE, a candidate must have a minimum two years of restaurant experience in a service/sales position within seven years of the date the application is submitted. Current employment must be in the restaurant/hospitality or beverage industry;
"To apply for the ADVANCED EXAMINATION, a candidate must have a minimum three years of restaurant experience in a service/sales position within seven years of the date the application is submitted. Current employment must be in the restaurant/hospitality or beverage industry. AND, a candidate must have taken the Advanced Sommelier Course by October 1, 2019.
So the new regulations dont just screw over those in tasting rooms, or wine shops but those in small markets as well.I work in the Rogue and Applegate Valley AVAs. While these AVAs produce fantastic wine the market is quite small. Ashland OR has a wonderful restaurant scene but none of these places can afford a Sommelier in the classical sense. The wine purchasing is usually done by a manager and most of them have been working here for years. Many of these businesses are so small the manager is usually working the floor as a server or maybe in back as a chef. Point is wine is a tangent for them over food. They learn it and become knowledgeable but only as an after thought. There are only 4 Certified Sommeliers in these AVAs (that I am aware of) because of this...I get all the people in the industry wanting the court to re-hone the focus of these exams back to the restaurant; but I think it is a short sighted way to limit applicants. Worst of all it decreases the overall wine knowledge being spread and raises the exclusivity of it all. As someone managing a wine shop, that pours some of the best wines from his respective AVAs, it is a huge hurdle I am presented with to find a way to effectively "volunteer" my services in a restaurant to meet said requirement. I am curious to hear this community's thoughts on this.
Joseph Shaughnessy I think that your information actually supports the new application procedure rather than detract from it. Part of the application process before was face to face time with multiple MSes and getting their support. Someone in those AVAs would have a hard time getting face time with a Master. And, at the end of the day, the exam is for sommeliers, people who work the floor. The Court has made a choice to move away from people who are not on the floor, and that's deliberate. I know that people who have invested time in the Court who aren't on the floor can be upset by this happening, but, to be blunt, if you're not on the floor, then the Court isn't for you ... after all, 1/3 of the exam is about service. Instead, the WSET and the MW exam are great ways to demonstrate your knowledge, skill, and passion for your craft.
I can't stress this enough, but just because the CMS is the most prominent wine certification body in the USA doesn't mean that it's the most appropriate organization for all wine professionals in the USA.
That prominence has been driven by the Somm movies; their subsequent impact on the number of people applying to the Court has made the Court move in this direction. The letter said that 8 MSes spent 170 hours reviewing about 1000 applicants - that's about 1 minute and 43 seconds, on average, that each applicant got from each MS, which isn't enough time to give a detailed review. There had to be a way to narrow the pool so that the talented sommeliers out there who were ready to take the test could shine. This evens the playing field in a great way - you do well on a test of knowledge and you're working the floor, you can move on.
I have friends, active sommeliers on the floor, wine directors, people who are immensely talented, who have seen their applications to sit for the Advance Course delayed, and then they have to wait for one, two, three years before they're even accepted to sit of the actual exam. Was the previous situation fair for the people who are active on the floor, ready for the test, and yet can't even get in to sit the exam? By limiting the field of applicants to those that are active on the floor, this gives those sommeliers a better chance to sit for the exam they have been training for.
I would like to counter this point by point if that is okay:"Someone in those AVAs would have a hard time getting face time with a Master." We all have met at least 8 masters by the time we are at the level to prepare for advanced. Every master I have spoken with has been extremely energetic (regardless of their workload) to assist."the exam is for sommeliers, people who work the floor." Is that their position thought? When I got my intro I remember MS Jason Smith saying a "Somm" these days is any number of people; not just those who work the floor."to be blunt, if you're not on the floor, then the Court isn't for you ... after all, 1/3 of the exam is about service." I work a wine bar that focuses on service. We may only have small plates of cheese or charcuterie but I pride myself on providing a level of service that this location has not seen and it shows in my reviews. I do not see how "service" is limited to a restaurant."There had to be a way to narrow the pool so that the talented sommeliers out there who were ready to take the test could shine. This evens the playing field in a great way - you do well on a test of knowledge and you're working the floor, you can move on." Should this not then be the only judge? Online exam applicable to all those who are certified and take it. Top x percent move on to review by the masters for the course and then repeat for the exam?" Was the previous situation fair for the people who are active on the floor, ready for the test, and yet can't even get in to sit the exam?" No, is my answer here. But that does not imply this is fair to all those like me who have no ability to work in the parameters the court mandates now.Last point I want to make is regarding the WSET. I am currently enrolled in the WSET3... i commute to 9 hours once a week to the closest place there is a class (Portland). Spoiler alert... no one in this region has completed WSET3 for EXACTLY this reason. The court was a way for those of us in secluded areas to continue to advance but now that cap seems a bit low at the "certified" level.I am doing my best to remain objective here, and I certainly respect your feedback, but I still feel the Court is overlooking some key details in this switch
No worries, I'm happy to engage in a friendly debate ...
Joseph Shaughnessy said: Every master I have spoken with has been extremely energetic (regardless of their workload) to assist.
That is always going to be true, but have you have enough face time with three of them for those Masters to give a full, complete and unhesitating endorsement for sitting? Genuinely curious, since three endorsements was required for the old application process.
Joseph Shaughnessy said:I do not see how "service" is limited to a restaurant.
One of the best definitions of a Master Sommelier I ever heard is that an MS can be dropped into any restaurant in the world and fit seamlessly into the service. If you are not working in an environment that is forcing you to internalize all of the mechanics of service that are required at the highest level and then to naturally give your guests hospitality on top of that, then I would say that your environment is not preparing you well for the exam. If you're not at a place where you need to remember that you need to talk to table 51 is gluten free and they've ordered the dish with shoyu in the prep, then talk to table 42 about the fact that the allocated wine they've preordered is OOS (and what you're going to replace it with), then talk gin with table 43, all the while seamlessly clearing plates, filling water glasses, crumbing tables, delivering top notch wine service and doing it with hospitality and grace, I'd say that you're not being well prepared for the rigors of the exam.
Joseph Shaughnessy said:Should this not then be the only judge? Online exam applicable to all those who are certified and take it. Top x percent move on to review by the masters for the course and then repeat for the exam?
I would say not because it would still leave too many people who, because they are not working the floor on a regular basis, will not pass the service portion of the exam.
Joseph Shaughnessy said:Last point I want to make is regarding the WSET. I am currently enrolled in the WSET3... i commute to 9 hours once a week to the closest place there is a class (Portland). Spoiler alert... no one in this region has completed WSET3 for EXACTLY this reason. The court was a way for those of us in secluded areas to continue to advance but now that cap seems a bit low at the "certified" level.
I feel like you're equating the opportunity to take the CMS Advanced with the likelihood of someone taking it to pass it. The Court has been judicious in making the barriers to taking the exams harder as the number of applicants has increased. Just like theory has become the barrier at the Master level, now you have dual hurdles of theory (test of knowledge) and service (practical floor work) for the Advanced. They want to make sure that the people who are sitting at the Advanced have the best chance of succeeding, and those who are active on the floor will have the best chance to succeed.
I understand your frustration and I would feel frustrated too if I was in your position, but with so many people applying, some of these barriers they are putting into place (like the formal service requirements) are likely to be codification of some unofficial rules they've had, but never really formalized. And if that's the case, wouldn't you rather know what those barriers are so that you have a better chance of making adjustments and getting in?
Good points honestly.A concise counter would be that the current system restricts those in small markets as much as the old system restricted those who have not befriended a Master Somm...
If you want it that badly, you can always respect the Court's decision and make the necessary changes in your life to make it happen
Playing the devil's advocate -- With ALL of this being said and done, why allow people who don't work the floor into any level of CMS? If you don't work at a restaurant, then they should deny your application to the Intro course if they are truly looking for absolute integrity of the Court. The fact that they will take your $600 for Intro and Certified and then say that you can't go to the next level unless you work the floor seems weird. Non-industry folk work just as hard at learning and mastering wine just as our Industry counterparts do. I would imagine that the amount of money made from the influx of people at the intro and Certified level help fund the education and materials for the Advanced and Master level.
Shawn Gordon If you allow people who are casually interested to go for Intro and Cert, they might discover that they really want to be part of the wine trade and to go full time into a service oriented job. And again, they are probably just codifying some unwritten rules that were used previously ... people who work the floor were going to get first priority. Now it's just official. Besides, non-industry folk who don't want to work the floor have other paths, like the MW, to elevate themselves.
And regarding funding, putting together exams is expensive, especially for the higher levels. The cost of the wine, the renting of space, glassware charges, travel/lodging for MSes to teach can be quite a bit, let alone what cash is needed to service the overhead of the CMS-A home offices (full time employees, website, writing up new testing materials, cirricula, etc). When I had to fork over $2700 in exam fees this year, it sure didn't feel like any lower levels were subsidizing my costs