Master Sommeliers – who are they?

This Friday 01 jul 05 the Court of Master Sommeliers Worldwide, established in 1977, will become an incorporated company limited by guarantee. For years I’ve heard about these mythical people, Master Sommeliers or MSs, without ever fully understanding what was involved (MWs who can pour straight?), so I’m delighted to be able to publish a few more details below.

The Court (makes it all sound a bit Masonic, don’t you think?) of Master Sommeliers is the examining body for the Master Sommelier Diploma, the Advanced Sommelier Certificate and the Introductory Sommelier Certificate, all of which are designed to test sommeliers’ competence.

Since the Master Sommelier Diploma was introduced in 1969, under the auspices of the Vintners Company, The Institute of Masters of Wine, The British Hotels & Restaurants Association, The Wine & Spirit Association of Great Britain and The Wholesale Tobacco Trade Association, 132 people from around the world have become Master Sommeliers. Of these, 10 are known to have passed away, many more have retired or left the industry apparently. Currently there are 25 active Master Sommeliers in the UK and the rest of Europe, one in Chile, one in Canada, and 72 in the US. Of these active Master Sommeliers, 12 are women, all of them based in the US. 

This year’s crop of new UK-based Master Sommeliers, all of whom passed the examination in mar 05, are:

Nigel Wilkinson of Rodney Densem Wine Shippers

Matthieu Longuere of La Trompette Restaurant, London W12

Matthew Wilkin of The Capital Hotel, London SW3

Ronan Sayburn of The Gordon Ramsay Restaurant, London SW3

Programmes have been run in the UK since 1983 and in the US since 1987.  This year Introductory programmes will be run for the first time in Canada in August and New Zealand in November. Next spring an Advanced programme will be run in Germany. Until now candidates have had to travel to the UK or US to take these courses. 

In response to requests by the American and British hospitality industries, the Court of Master Sommeliers is introducing the new qualification, Certified Sommelier.  The development of this new qualification is nearing completion and will be piloted in the UK in August and subsequently the US. Candidates scoring 75% or higher on the Introductory theory paper will be eligible. This new qualification or an equivalent qualification will be the pre-requisite for entry to the Advanced Sommelier Certificate course.

The Court of Master Sommeliers’ trademark has been registered in the UK since 1987 and is currently filing for registration in the EU, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and, perhaps significantly, China.

For more information see