THE TEST NO ONE CAN PASS
WELL, ALMOST NO ONE that is. Only one person out of 7O Master Sommelier candidates from around the United States passed the most recent exam that took place this July in Dallas. The result has raised concerns that, in light of the recent attention the Court of Master Sommeliers has received as a result of the movie “Somm” and the test’s rising popularity, it has become increasingly difficult to pass.
Shayn Bjornholm, the examination director for the American chapter of the Court said; “Certainly, it is getting more and more difficult, but not because we are trying to make it more difficult.” Bjornholm points to a combination of a rapidly evolving wine world and more – and younger – experts than ever before; adding, “We have the same standards but the whole world is blowing up.” Dozens of Master Sommeliers, many of whom are running wine programs and visiting wine regions, are involved with writing the exams, which in Bjornholm’s assessment, keeps the test “fresh, relevant and grounded in what is important.” He says the recent failure of all but one examinee has given the Court “no pause whatsoever. We think the questions are fair. They are difficult, but we are happy with the level of difficulty we have established.” The pass rate fluctuates year to year, hovering around 1O% between 2OO1 and 2O13. In 2OO5, 26% of candidates passed, but in 2O1O, only 3 passed out of 84, rivaling the poor performance in Dallas for a 1O year low. In the four decades since the first exam, 2O2 candidates have earned the purple pin of the Master Sommelier.