The Court of Master Sommeliers has named five new recipients of its top accolade, including Germany’s first female MS, Bulgaria’s first ever MS and Japan’s first MS, aged just 24.

The five new Master Sommeliers passed their exams at the historic Stift Klosterneuburg wine school and monastery in Austria on Saturday 17 August. The candidates present had already passed their practical exam in which the students are tested on their ability to perform tasks such as decanting wine, pouring sparkling wine and serving customers in a mock restaurant scenario.

Candidates therefore took the blind tasting exam, comprising six wines (three whites and three reds) and lasting for 25 minutes, and/or the oral theory exam.

The successful students included Helga Schroeder MS, Germany’s first female Master Sommelier; Carlos Simoes MS, Portugal’s second Master Sommelier; Pierre Brunelli MS; Svetoslav Manolev MS, Bulgaria’s first Master Sommelier; and Toru Takamatsu MS, Japan’s first Master Sommelier.

Speaking to the drinks business Ronan Sayburn MS, CEO of the Court of Master Sommeliers Europe and head of wine at 67 Pall Mall, commented: “The pass rate of these exams is usually 4%. I don’t think we’ve ever had five people pass in one go before, or at least we haven’t for some time.

“A lot of the people that passed on Saturday have been taking the exams for several years. Obviously it’s very disappointing when you don’t pass time after time, but the distinguishing feature of the people that pass these exams is their tenacity – they just don’t give up. They go away and instead of thinking negatively about the experience, they study and taste more.

“We were very pleased about the results as it was quite historic, we had a lot of firsts. We’ve crowned the first female German Master Sommelier and had our first Bulgarian Master Sommelier.

“What was really quite extraordinary was Toru, who is only 24 years of age, and he passed the exam in just two attempts. He’s a very smart guy, if he wasn’t doing wine exams he’d be working for Tesla or something similar, colonising new planets! He’s very switched on.

“It’s very interesting for us to get a Japanese Master Sommelier as Japan has traditionally had quite a closed wine scene. It’s brilliant to have some Japanese interest in the award and we’re very excited about it.

“We held the same examinations in Austria last year and had zero passes. It was difficult to do my speech at the end of the course when everyone was quite down, but this year it was fantastic to have five people who passed.”

A total of 18 candidates took exams last weekend taking the total number of Master Sommeliers in the world to 262. Students are given a three-year limit to pass all sections of their exams.


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