Sommelier status is a serious matter. Earning some of the lapel pins that signify the certifications requires decades of work. So, it was no small scandal when the Japan Sommelier Association (JSA) announced that counterfeit sommelier pins were being peddled online.
Last week, the JSA sent out an official notice to restaurants across the nation warning about imposter sommeliers seeking work with the fake lapel pins. In addition, the group filed suits against several of the unscrupulous sellers.
“The qualification is not something you can buy and (the lapel pin) is not an item for a collection,” JSA President Shinya Tasaki told Kyodo News. “It’s disrespectful to those who were certified after their hard work.”
The Japan Times reported one recipient of the legal action was a wine shop staffer in Kanto. The man was ordered to pay damages to the JSA after he admitted to selling 38 fake pins for a total of ¥1.3 million ($11,800) on an auction site.
While this seller was a primary offender, he was not alone. The association reported that their investigation revealed about 100 fake pins sold over the past few years. In one case, an Advanced Sommelier pin was authentic, but someone had filed down the serial number on the back.
In Japan, a whopping 30,000 people (13,000 women!) have passed the base level sommelier certification. That feat requires a minimum of three years experience, as well as passing marks on both a written and tasting test. In 2108, only 26.5% of applicants received certification.