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Andy Anderson's Blog

COO of Bottlenotes. Loves the SF Giants almost as much as California Cabernets.

Nov 12, 2010
Becoming a Master
How to Become a Master Sommelier

Last night I went to a housewarming party for a new friend who just moved to San Francisco to work as a sommelier at RN74. As the evening went on, I looked around the room and saw sommeliers from many of SF’s top restaurants. It occurred to me that it there was a terrorist attack on the building, San Francisco would pretty much be SOL as far as wine service. Every half hour or so, someone would come into the living room with a new wine in a decanter and we’d casually blind taste it. I had my own decent guesses, but these guys were incredible. How the hell did one of them identify a Lebanese Chateau Musar white?

The answer is: it  takes lots of practice. Many of the people in the room were well on their way to a certification by the Court of Master Sommeliers. There are four levels of examination required to become Masters: 1) Introductory; 2) Certified; 3) Advanced; and 4) Master. All four levels must be passed within a three year time period.

None of the exams are easy, but the final Master Sommelier diploma exam is downright ridiculous. The first portion involves a demonstration of practical “restaurant wine service and salesmanship,” in which the candidate must role play discussing the wine list and making recommendations to the customer. The second portion is on theory: “what does the sommelier need to know?”

The final portion is a blind tasting. The candidate has 25 minutes to do the following for six different wines: identify, where appropriate, grape varieties, country of origin, district and appellation of origin, and vintages of the wines tasted. Pass rate for the exam: 10%. That may explain where there are only 170 in the world.

Tags: RN74, Court of Master Sommeliers, Chateau Musar, Exam

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