Master of Wine vs. Master Sommelier

October 22, 2010 at 9:14 AM 8 comments

What’s the correct pronunciation of Sommelier? (SAH-MILL-YAY) is my best attempt at the true French way of saying it, though some prefer to say : SAHM-UHL-YAYR, but this is not the most sophisticated ;-). Cheers!

Since I began my journey through the WSET Diploma Level, I have wondered where is the top, how, and when will I get there. You hear a lot about MW and MS, but what are these titles? Is one better than the other? Well, after reading Doug Frost’s blog post, I thought I would repost it, because it really explained it pretty well to me. Since he is one of only 4 people to hold both titles, I’d say he’s a pretty good authority on the subject 😉

Doug Frost’s Recent Post:

Doug Frost’s blog

MW’s vs MS’s?
Some nice person has made me aware of wikipedia’s entry for “Master of Wine.” In it, the author of the entry has noted that “the Master of Wine qualification is recognized as being vastly more difficult.” Of course, the entry is merely re-stating something that Ronn Weigand (also a dual MS/MW and the first person to achieve that status) was quoted as saying in a Janet Fletcher-penned San Francisco Chronicle article. Ronn is welcome to his opinion. But so am I.

I think it’s rather subjective (if not reductive) to state that one title is more difficult than the other; it really depends upon the test taker. If someone is skilled in restaurant floor service and are willing to commit themselves to the memorization required of a Master Sommelier, well, then they will likely find it fairly easy. But if you’ve never worked on a restaurant floor, there is no way (imho) that you are ever going to pass the Master Sommelier exam. You might be able to dash off three Master of Wine essays in your sleep, but for you, the MS exam would be overwhelmingly difficult. You see, it depends upon the test taker, because each of these two tests is different.

The Master Sommelier exam tests people’s ability, experience, understanding and skills in a variety of service settings. The successful candidate is likely to know a great deal about a great many things, but as is typical of a hospitality setting, that sommelier isn’t going to need to write an essay about any of those issues. Conversely, the Master of Wine exam is extremely detailed about matters of grape-growing, winemaking and maturation and, perhaps most importantly, the business of wine. The successful MW candidate probably has no idea which grapes are important in Moldova or any other obscure wine region, but I guarantee you that the MS will. It doesn’t make one exam better or harder than the other, but it does make the exams very different.
Doug Frost’s Blog

Wikipedia Definition of Master of Wine

Wikipedia Definition of Master Sommelier

Entry filed under: Wine Education.

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8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Notable Wine Blog: 2010 in review « Notable Wine  |  January 2, 2011 at 10:22 AM

    […] Master of Wine vs. Master Sommelier October 2010 5 […]

  • 2. Ron Meza  |  January 7, 2011 at 8:57 PM

    The successful MW candidate probably has no idea which grapes are important in Moldova or any other obscure wine region, but I guarantee you that the MS will??? Wow this is way off. MW’s would know this. I know two of them. And they know it.

    • 3. notablewine  |  January 8, 2011 at 1:18 AM

      Thanks for the comment. That statement was made by a man who is certified as both MW and MS, so, he’s allowed to say that… One of only 4 in the world, I believe… I’m sure an MW is capable of having all the knowledge an MS has, and vice versa, it really just depends on what they study, what they retain, and what really matters to the individual…

  • 4. Stan Brody  |  January 30, 2011 at 5:03 PM

    obviously what is required is a “hybrid” joint certification combining the best of both….

    • 5. notablewine  |  January 31, 2011 at 10:48 AM

      I hope that is not what is required! :-), but I agree that combining the best of both is the way to go. I’m all about being well rounded! Thanks for the comment.

  • […] Notable Wine – For those that are confused about the differences between the Master of Wines and Master […]

  • 7. Colin  |  October 30, 2011 at 10:21 AM

    The MS is a service oriented accredation and as such those looking to achieve the highest wine certification available to the hospitality industry should pursue this. The MW title is geared more towards consultants, journalists, winemakers and wine educators. f your sole interest in wine is to function as an instructor, there is another certification, the Certified Wine Educator (CWE) that is designed specifically for this. By necessity, there is some overlap between the three different accredations, but which path you choose to pursue should depend on your objectives.


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