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They Passed the Wine World's Most Brutal Test. Then It Fell Apart

Vice looks at the scandal that has followed the 2018 Master Sommelier test
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 13, 2021 7:59 AM CST

(Newser) – For almost everyone on the planet, an email that simply read "PG" and "CndP" would be meaningless. For 24 sommeliers, it was devastating, and the start of a wine-world scandal that still has more questions that answers. Writing for Vice, Adam Elder has the story of the 2018 Master Sommelier test and what went so very wrong. It started with that email, which was sent to 3 of nearly 150 people who were scheduled to take the test that day by Reggie Narito. He was proctoring the exam and sat on the board of the Court of Master Sommeliers, and what he was doing was spilling two of the answers (pinot grigio and Châteauneuf-du-Pape) to the test's most treacherous part, in which the test taker must taste 3 whites and 3 reds and name the associated grape, year those grapes were harvested, and wine region. None of the 3 had requested the info.

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Some 24 people passed the test, and it's hard to understate the achievement that is. There are fewer than 300 Master Sommeliers, and those with that title get six-figure salaries from wineries, distributors, or Michelin-starred restaurants. One of the candidates who got Narito's email failed and turned it over to the Court of Master Sommeliers. Within three days, those who passed were told they were no longer Master Sommeliers. Elder addresses the obvious question: Why did Narito do it? There are only theories at this point (Narito left the Court). But there's actually a much bigger and darker question: Was the Court trying to hide something? They were unyielding in punishing the 22 who passed and didn't receive the email, and there was no outside investigation, which some theorize was an attempt to prevent anyone from uncovered alleged cheating that happened in 2009—the year some Court members and its chairman passed the test. (Read the fascinating full story.)

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