A candidate must past three levels of examinations. The first level is the Introductory Sommelier Course. Next are the Advanced, and lastly, the Master Sommelier Diploma exams. When a candidate has successfully passed all three levels, he or she earns the Master Sommelier diploma and can be referred to as a Master Sommelier.
The Master Sommelier diploma is the highest distinction a professional can attain in fine wine and beverage service. Testing is focused on the areas needed for superior beverage department management, which include Tasting, Theory, Practical and Dining Room Application, and also encompasses spirits, beers, cigars as well as global wine knowledge. The Master of Wine program is designed to measure knowledge in a more academic form than the Master Sommelier.
The Master of Wine program is popular among négociants, writers, winemakers, and other members of the trade. It is not focused on beverage department management and service, nor does the curriculum include spirits, beer and cigars in the same way as the Master Sommelier program. The Court class is much more “hands on” and practical whereas the MW program is more theory.
There are currently 126 Master Sommeliers (2013) in the United States, 19 of whom are women.
Master of Wine
The first Master of Wine examinations were held in 1953, under the auspices of the‘Worshipful Company of Vintners’ and the ‘Wine and Spirits Association’, and 6 candidates achieved the standard required to become the first Masters of Wine. The Institute was established as an entity in 1955 and there are now 240 Masters of Wine who comprise its membership. For the first 30 years the annual examination was limited to UK ‘traders in wine’ (defined as importers, merchants and retailers) but in the 1980s the examination was opened to anyone earning their living in wine world-wide and the first non-UK MW succeeded in the examinations in 1987.
The Institute now has 240 members of 16 different nationalities, living in 16 countries throughout the world. Education seminars and examinations are held in 3 countries, the UK, the USA and Australia. 56 members live and work outside the UK, almost all of whom have become members in the last 12 years.