The Court of Master Sommeliers America (CMSA) long represented the gold standard in the wine world. However, a series of scandals shook the CMS to its core over the last two years. The situation reached critical mass this weekend when the organization announced that Chairman Devon Broglie and the 15 member Board all resigned.
Industry watchers theorized that CMSA’ troubles first came to light two years ago, when the group retroactively stripped the entire Class of ’18 of their titles due to alleged cheating by two members of the class. In June of this year, the Court once again came under fire for institutional protocols that promoted racism as well as a failure to publicly support the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
Last week, the New York Times published an article detailing a culture of sexual harassment and assault. 21 women recounted alleged attacks by several prominent men in the wine world, including GuildSomm President Geoff Kruth.
Subsequently, Kruth resigned this weekend. CMS then suspended (bylaws require a 30 day wait period before expulsion) Master Sommeliers Robert Bath, Matthew Citriglia, Fred Dame, Drew Hendricks and Matt Stamp.
However, pressure continued to grow. Members complained that the Court has a history of responding to crises with lip service—and this instance was no different. The group’s female members penned a letter calling for more action and the national media continued to publish articles highlighting the toxic culture.
Broglie then resigned. The CMS followed this bombshell with an announcement that the entire 15 member Board will step down and be replaced in an upcoming election. In addition, the Court vowed to overhaul their entire organization from the charter up.
In the interim, Board Vice Chair Virginia Phillip will act as a caretaker for the group.
“We agree that a reformed CMS-A is the only path forward to ensuring the organization’s existence and integrity, and to better protect the people who look to be educated and earn the credentials for which we have all worked so hard,” wrote Philip in a letterCMS members.