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Sommelier Exam Cheats


I expect most people on here have read about the Master Sommelier Exam cheating case

The amount of press given to this if you Google Sommelier Exam Cheat, is quite extraordinary, after all exam cheating in all fields and all levels is hardly new and in some cases simply paying for a diploma even cuts out the exam, it was forever thus.
But the Court ( a pretentious title if ever there was ) of Master Sommeliers has decreed that most of the exam sitters will have to resit the exam and so be it.
The rise in status of the sommelier has being going on apace in recent years with the book Cork Dork being a success in explaining the pain and suffering these poor souls go through to get their diplomas, though personnaly the pain and suffering was in reading this pretentious and highly repetitive tome, that of course was just my opinion.
But the question arises as to do we really need these sommeliers, advice on choosing wine at the restaurant table can often be welcome and for the unitiated a welcome helping hand is a good thing though the latter group, the majority, hardly need steering towards anything other than a safe bet and a decent match to their food.
The other group those who know their wine will want help in knowing what is on the list that matches their aspiration not whether the south facing slope that year didn’t get as much sun and the picking was late so I advise…and this is where Jane MacQuitty put her boot into the whole sommelier mystery tour in her article in the Times basically saying outside of most of what I have said above and some more she really didn’t get the whole sommelier thing and found it a total mostly unnessesary overkill.
And one could add is the wine industry overloaded with “experts”, certainly compared with twenty years ago it appears the numbers just keep rising .
What do readers on here think ?


I have passed my WSET level 3 and find it the perfect level to be able to go and choose a wine to match with a meal myself. Not planning to go forward to the level 4 diploma as for me its starts to become a less enjoyable learning experience. Anyone who is going for anything at the top of their profession would work hard towards it but if its not enjoyable then its not something that is worth it.

Not sure about the master Sommelier exams, would rather go after the master of wine side as that would have a much broader and more useful set of knowledge than learning how to quickly chill a bottle of wine for someone else.




I was expecting to be a bit cool about “Cork Dork” (I was given a copy), but in fact I quite enjoyed reading it - largely, it has to be said, because of some of the technical asides.

As to the MS qualification - yes, I think it’s a rather inflated conceit. Not that I don’t value the help from a good somm. - a restaurant with a carefully chosen wine list is almost certainly going to have all sorts of jewels hidden away in it, and as the sommelier was probably the person who put it together, then I’ll be happy to interact. On other occasions, I may have spotted something and just need someone to serve it.

But a good sommelier can undoubtedly contribute to giving the customer a pleasant lunch/dinner experience.


In my opinion, this is true for almost any field these days. There’s status and prestige to be gained from becoming an expert in often very narrow aspects of a profession.

In my field of work, for example, there are constant arguments as to whether one should call oneself a ‘therapist’, a ‘counsellor’ or a ‘psychotherapist’, with the latter carrying the most prestige in the profession. We all do the same thing, but the drive for micro- specialisation and professional respect is ludicrous. I totally disengaged from the whole ‘argument’ a long time ago.

The way I see it with Sommeliers, the halo of knowledge and 'expertise ’ (on an essentially subjective experience!) is worth more than what the actual role achieves.

If you’re someone who frequents restaurants with Sommeliers, chances are you know something or two about wine, and about food and wine matching. To turn this into some haloed science is a joke.


I did WSET level 3, loved it, it’s no cake walk if you want to do well, I think it’s the perfect level for the amateur enthusiast, I had intended to go on to the diploma and I do admire anyone who has the commitment to complete it but for me I decided it was liable to kill my passion and turn a hobby into something tedious. There is a huge step up between level 3 and the diploma, if there were something in the middle of the two I’d definitely be up for it. I’ve been thinking of doing the French wine scholar course, which they do in Brighton, does anyone know where the Wine Scholar courses sit in relative difficulty as compared to WSET courses?


I studied for the Diploma but sadly my (non-wine) day job got in the way and I was unable to finish the last aspect.

It was hard work (esp with a demanding job where I was travelling lots) but I never felt it turned my love/hobby into something tedious…it just expanded my knowledge

It also gave me the chance to meet some great people in the industry - several who I am still friends with and one now an MW


I believe @leah had done either the French or the Italian one. Perhaps she knows the answer.
Like you, I’m also considering doing the Italian (rather than French) wine Scholar with the Sussex Wine School in Brighton. But first, Level 3… one step at a time :slight_smile:


This is EXACTLY my thoughts - going further would be interesting but would kill the enjoyment of learning.


Yes, I’ve done the French Wine Scholar. I did it online which allows you to watch the bi weekly tutorials and complete the quizzes etc and flash cards. It’s a total different kettle of fish to the WSET.
The amount of learning involved is A LOT . Why anyone would need to know that for example: the Appelation of Cotes du Vivaris AOC has plantings of 53% Red, 41% Rosé and 6% white and the grapes permitted in each blend is beyond me but that is the requirement of level of learning for the French Wine scholar. For EVERY appellation for EVERY region, less focus on South West France.
There are also some questionable “facts” in the syllabus such as my favourite:

“Champagne has an Atlantic influence!” Does it hell when 70 miles inland of the Loire the Atlantic influence is lost…:laughing: (As also stated my FWS).

Maybe in a class setting you are given more guidance in terms of what you are expected vs what you need to know. I did learn a lot, however I really don’t think knowing every soils type, history and grape crossing for all of France was really necessary. In hindsight, I would have chosen a master level, like Burgundy or Alsace rather than the FWS.

On a side note, the IWS (Italian) comes in two volumes as Italy is so big in terms of wine making. The SWS (Spanish) is now also available.

Hope that helps…:wink:


Thanks Leah, that sounds encouraging, was looking for at least WSET 3 level but narrower and deeper, I know it doesn’t have the blind tasting element of level 3, but sounds like I won’t be disappointed, I’ll have to get around to it soon.


Having done levels 2 and 3 for WSET, in terms of knowledge needed in each, here is how they stack up:

WSET level 2 = 1 x fairly thin book about the same as the current list
WSET level 3 = 1 x book, double the thickness of level 2
WSET level 4 diploma = 6 x books the same thickness to double the thickness of level 3

Basically a single unit for the level 4 diploma has as much information if not more of the whole of the level 3 course.

Then there is Master of Wine…there are currently 380 masters of wine in the world, there are currently slightly more than 560 trained astronauts in the world.


That goes to my point, I think there’s room for WSET 3.5 :slight_smile:


I would definitely suggest level 3 before attempting the FWS and it gives you a good grounding and background for French wine. I could not have imagined doing FWS without my L3 behind me. What neither gives you is an understanding of particular producers so bear that in mind.
I’m now on the diploma path so lets see what that brings…:scream:




Or Masters of Space, as I’ll start calling them from now on.


Are there any untrained astronauts?


I guess there will be when Virgin Galactic starts taking people up!


perhaps we could abbreviate that to MS ?1



image https://i.gifer.com/FUJ.gif
…or Masters of the Universe?