When a candidate has successfully passed all four examinations, 1) Introductory Sommelier Course & Exam, 2) Certified Sommelier Exam, 3) Advanced Sommelier Course & Exam, and 4) Master Sommelier Diploma exams, the candidate earns the Master Sommelier diploma and title.
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.
The Master Sommelier diploma distinguishes a service professional worthy of the title, and is known throughout the hospitality business worldwide. It guarantees to a potential employer that a candidate is among the most qualified in the industry, with outstanding tasting and evaluation skills, wine knowledge and outstanding abilities in service and beverage department management. Many of the finest hotel and restaurant beverage programs have a Master Sommelier at the helm.
There are 230 professionals worldwide who have earned the title Master Sommelier. Of those 198 are men and 32 are women.
The Master Sommelier diploma is the highest distinction a professional can attain in fine wine and beverage service. Testing is focused on the areas needed for superior beverage department management, which include Tasting, Theory, Service, and also encompasses spirits, beers, as well as global wine knowledge.
The Master of Wine program is designed to measure knowledge in a more academic form than the Master Sommelier. The Master of Wine program is popular among negociants, writers, winemakers, and other members of the trade. It is not focused on beverage department management and service, nor does the curriculum include spirits or beer in the same way as the Master Sommelier program. The Court of Master Sommeliers’ approach is more hands on and practical whereas the Master of Wine program is more theoretical.
The Court of Master Sommeliers is a non-profit based in the United States (with a sister chapter in the United Kingdom) which serves the restaurant beverage profession global trade only. While it does educate with great reach (over 5,000 people a year) at an extremely high level with its Introductory Course & Examination, Deductive Tasting Workshop, Certified Examination, Advanced Course & Examination, and Master Sommelier Diploma Examination, these programs are only for those pursuing one of its four levels of certification. With the popularity and growth of the sommelier profession around the world, the Court of Master Sommeliers hopes to help both sommeliers, their employers and their guests provide/receive the best possible technical beverage service with hospitality as the ultimate goal. It is the most dependable of the certifying bodies – as far as any certification can go without real practical application, no one covers the entire world of beverage sales/service/hospitality better.
The Guild of Sommeliers is a non-profit based in the United States which serves the global public, with an obvious tack toward sommeliers. Its vision is to provide community (virtual and real) and strong education for wine lovers, again with the sommelier in mind. It does not certify anyone, though it offers TopYoungSomm and TopSomm competitions. They provide incredible scholarship opportunities for those in the beverage service community. In theory, they support any beverage professional (whether with the Court of Master Sommeliers, WSET, Institute of Masters of Wine, etc) and provide access to all walks of beverage education life (sommeliers, Masters of Wine, winemakers, growers, etc.); however, the majority of their scholarships and much of their content focuses on helping those striving for success with the Court of Master Sommeliers (as the preeminent sommelier certification body in the world) and other sommelier bodies. There is no greater resource for wine/wine service knowledge in the world – their platform is incredibly trustworthy, thorough, vital and real-time.