Adam tells us about his Master Sommelier journey
My adventure with the Court of Master Sommeliers started in March 2010 when I took their introductory exam and was lucky enough to also pass that as well as the Certified Sommelier exam on the very same day. I was extremely happy, as I had really only just started my career as a Sommelier. Northcote then booked me in for the Advanced Sommelier exam which is the level before the Master Sommelier. As the result showed, I was not ready to take such a difficult exam and unfortunately failed. I was disappointed but of course wanted to give it another go. I became obsessed with passing the exam and got down to some serious revision and preparation.
I retook the Advanced Sommelier exam in February 2012 and all the hard work finally paid off – I passed with a very good result and that is how the door to being a Master Sommelier opened for me. Though someone who has passed the Advanced Sommelier exam has to wait at least 12 months before he or she can apply for a place on the MS exam.
I waited a year and started trying to get on the list – and ended up on a 6 month waiting list… One day at the beginning of September 2013, I got an email asking if I would still like to take the exam as somebody had dropped out. Without any hesitation I said yes and cracked on with revision. The exam took place at the end of September and I was pretty happy with my first attempt. I passed the theory but unfortunately failed the tasting and the practical exams. Luckily, I could keep the theory result for my next two attempts.
Almost straight after the exam I sat down and made a plan for the next 12 months — the previous year’s experience gave me an idea of what I needed to work on in order to be successful the next time. The last 12 months have been all about getting the tools in place – I have done endless amounts of blind and non-blind tastings and have spent literally all my free time studying and fine-tuning my service skills. I had found the previous year’s exam very stressful, and no doubt the nerves had got the better of me at some points. To avoid the same thing happening this year, I exercised, meditated and generally thought positivly.
All I focused on was to give it my best shot without putting too much pressure on myself. That mindset kept me relatively cool and stopped me from freaking out!
The exams started on Friday, 31st October. I had 25 minutes to taste six wines blind, analyse by sight, nose, palate and make a conclusion. Candidates are asked to name the grape variety, country of origin, region, quality level and vintage of each wine. It was not easy but I enjoyed the tasting.
My practical exam was the next morning and involved service scenarios, marketing exercises, blind tastings of wines and spirits and other tasks. I felt I did well but I wasn’t sure if it was well enough to pass.
What is great about the MS exam is that the results are announced on the very same day. At around 5pm all the candidates gathered round and received their feedback.
It happened that this year I was the only successful candidate out of 24 attending the exam, which made me the first polish Master Sommelier and the 220th person to pass the exam since 1969.
It has been a journey but I really enjoyed the process. Though I know I wouldn’t have been able to achieve any of this without the help of my friends and the support that I have been kindly given by Craig, Nigel and the team at Northcote.
The Court of Master Sommeliers was established to encourage improved standards of beverage knowledge and service in hotels and restaurants. Education was then, and remains today, the Court’s charter. The first successful Master Sommelier examination was held in the United Kingdom in 1969. By April 1977, the Court of Master Sommeliers was established as the premier international examining body.
There are only 220 professionals worldwide who have received the title of Master Sommelier since the first Master Sommelier Diploma Exam.