The title of Master Sommelier is about as elite as it gets. The small enamel pins marking the status are the product of years of work, natural ability, a ton of studying, and passing grades on some insane exams. This weekend, the Court of Master Sommeliers inducted a diverse group of five into their ranks.
Helga Schroeder, Carlos Simoes, Pierre Brunelli, Svetoslav Manolev, and Toru Takamatsu were dubbed Master Sommeliers after the final round of testing held at Stift Klosterneuburg wine school and monastery.
The group includes a number of milestones. Schroeder represents Germany’s first female MS. Simoes is only the second MS from Portugal. Manolev is Bulgaria’s first MS. The mercurial Takamatsu is Japan’s first MS—and at the age of 24-Years-old to boot.
The five newly minted MS’s emerged from a field of 16. The passing percentage was also unusually high. On average, less than one person passes a year. For example, the last round yielded zero new MS’s.
The MS designation requires passing three sections: theory, tasting and practical. The practical element includes focuses on service. Specifically, candidates are put through mock service scenarios with attention paid to details from proper pouring to customer interaction.
Somms that passed the practical end were invite to Austria for the remains two sections. (If one splits their scores, they can carry over a pass and retake the failed section the fallowing year.)
The tasting section consisted a three reds and three whites. In the blind tasting, candidates were expected to identify region, varietals, and several other key descriptors. The theory section involved an oral exam that tackles everything from wine laws to storage issues.
Including the new inductees, there are only 262 Master Sommeliers in the world.