2014 was the year I was determined to become a Certified Sommelier. I took my Intro course for the Court of Master Sommeliers a few years ago and now is the time to step it up a level. To become a Certified Sommelier you have to pass a 3 part test all consisting of a minimum 60% score: 1. Theory exam consisting of 40 questions matching, multiple choice, or short answer. 2. Blind tasting of 2 wines. 1 red and 1 white. 3. Service, where you open a bottle of Champagne and serve it to a Master Sommelier while answering questions during the service. I had my exam scheduled at the TexSom event in Irving, TX on August 9th, 2014. That morning I was definitely on edge. Blind tasting, which was my greatest concern, was the first exam. This means I had to wait all day to find out how I did on the blind tasting. Myself and about 50 other candidates entered a room with chairs, wine glasses with wine in them, and a tasting grid in front of each sheet. We had 15 minutes to evaluate both wines and fill out our reflections on the tasting grid. I was not 100% confident on either of the wines but I was able to pick up a good amount of aromas and flavors which I wrote down. Structure and appearance really helped me decide what to put down on the red. Using the deductive format recommended I was able to come out with guesses that I felt comfortable with. The key to this is writing out as much info as possible that way when you are graded, they can see how you came to that conclusion. Once we were done with the tasting they immediately jumped us in to the theory exam. I enjoy taking theory questions on wine and this was definitely my strong suit. I whizzed through it fairly fast only being unsure on a few questions. After the exam we were told to come back to do service based on the time they gave us at checkin. For me, the waiting was the worst part. I went and ate breakfast and second guessed my blind tasting the entire time. “Maybe it was Malbec, oh wait, maybe it was Zin. No, no it had to be Syrah it was too dark.” These thoughts went through my head the entire time. After a couple hours it was time for me to do my service portion. There were 5 other people with me and we were all instructed on which Master Sommelier we were going to be serving. We entered a room with several round tables and each one had a MS. There were empty seats at the table also that had marked “Female” or “Male” next to them. To the side there was a bottle of bubbles, Champagne glasses, a serving tray, towels, Champagne bucket, stand, and coasters. I approached the MS and he gave me his order of Champagne. I placed the glasses at the table and proceeded to open the bottle and pour him a small taste. I went clockwise around and poured the first lady first and so on. Once I sat the bottle in the bucket I realized I did not drop the coaster for the cork. This being something we do not do in my restaurants, it totally slipped my mind. I quickly brought it over and put the cork on top of it. Stupid move but I wanted to let him know I at least knew it needed to be there. He then proceeded to ask me various questions about cocktails and wine pairings. He was going to have a lamb burger and wanted to know my recommendations. I went with a Cote Rotie for Rostaing. Then he asked for some new world producers. I suggested the Arnot Roberts Clary Ranch Syrah. It helped that I was familiar with these wines. I can’t imagine taking these questions with no restaurant experience. I was asked to pour the remaining Champagne in several more glasses and walk around the room with the tray. Then I was told to clear the table and the service portion was over. It felt good to be done with the exams. I did have a couple more hours to wait to find out my results. I needed a drink and ended up having a couple cocktails in the hotel lobby until it was time to get my results. I felt fairly confident but the blind tasting was still in the back of my mind. The same questions going over in my head again and again. Two hours later all the canidiates entered a room and were instructed to grab a glass of Champagne. The Master Sommeliers proceeded to read off the names of the people who passed the exam. There were claps and cheers between each name read. Midway through they called my name! Whew, it was over. I passed. We received a pin and a piece of paper showing how we did on each portion. They do not tell you what the blind tasting wines were but they evaluated how you did. I was not 100% on the tasting portion but I did pass and that was all that mattered.
A huge weight was lifted off of my shoulders after passing this exam. With the life I live right now this was a totally different experience for me and it definitely was character building. I might be a somebody at my own restaurant but in front of all these Master Sommeliers you have to prove yourself if you want to make it. Wine is a subject that you never stop learning and I will continue down the path to learn more each day.
As far as recommendations go I would definitely recommend taking the exam at TexSom. TexSom in general is a badass event and there is nothing greater to celebrate passing then 2 days of TexSom right after the exam. Have your drinking shoes on, TexSom is not for the unseasoned drinker.
If you would like more info about my experience with the exam or suggestions on helping with you pass the exam, feel free to contact me on any of my social media links on this site. I’d be more than happy to help aspiring Sommeliers.
Advanced Somm in 2016?