Hey everyone. Sorry I haven't written in a few days because we're moving! Yea! Patti and I have been cleaning out the store and just announced out moving sale! In store you'll find 20% off all wines for members and 10% off all wines for non members. And while there will be some bitter tears because of all the memories made here we are excited for the new chapter for us.
In shuttling back and forth between the new space and our current location (both are still in Excelsior, MN) found me talking to a young wine acolyte wanting to know the difference between certain sommelier certifications and I tried my best to explain a partial history of Court of Master Sommeliers and International Sommeliers Guild of which I and my wife are associated.
I am more familiar with CMS so I will start there. The history of CMS starts in the twelve century with the Worshipful Company of Vintners. This very ancient group of wine experts were known as Livery Companies and were stationed in the City of London. Even in the eleven hundreds people were gathering together to talk wine.
While there are now one hundred and ten Livery Companies comprised of old and new trade guilds or associations. The term livery described the specific outfit(s) worn by retainers of noblemen and eventually to indicate the membership of certain trades. These guilds were responsible for training in their particular specialty, regulations of wages, industry standards of procedure and labor conditions.
Of the one hundred and ten current Livery companies the Worshipful Company of Vintners is one of the Great Twelve as ranked in 1515 by the Court of Alderman. During this time the number of livery companies were forty eight and the twelve companies that were highest based on economic and or political power. Of course the Vintners would make it. Even then alcohol held a great place in the imagination of people.
Fast forward to 1955 when the Institute of Masters of Wine was created, though the first exam for them was in 1953. After the second World War the Worshipful Company of Vintners and The Wine & Spirit Association felt the need to improve standards of wine education for British wine merchants and those affiliated with the wine trade. The two groups constructed a test to determine the most talented wine experts. And thus was born the Institute of Masters of Wine.
A few years later in 1969 the Wine & Spirit Association that helped form the Institute of Masters of Wine (Vintners Company) set up a committee to create a group to serve the ever growing needs in the UK regarding wine and spirits covering import, distribution and retail. This group would be known as WSET or the Wine & Spirit Education Trust. The founders were from the Vintner's Company, the Wine & Spirit Association of Great Britain, Institute of Masters of Wine and The Worshipful Company of Distillers.
Then in 1969 the first Master Sommelier exam was held and it was not until 1977 when there were enough Master Somms to comprise an examining charter for sommeliers. This group was created by the Vintners Company, the Institute of Masters of Wine, the British Hotels & Restaurants Association, the Wine & Spirit Association of Great Britain and the Wholesale Tobacco Trade Association.
A little while later in 1982 brings the North American contingent with the International Sommeliers Guild. This program in great for those who want to get to know wine fast! Upon entering you'll be thrown into a nine to twelve month crash course that includes written essays, a two hundred question test and blind tasting of 20 wines and spirits. In addition you will be tested in menu knowledge and pairing. There is also a test section in service.
The first four are related and spawned from the Worshipful (worship the wine!) Company of Vintners and focus on various aspects of wine and spirits while the Court of Master Sommeliers will add service as directed by the British Hotel & Restaurant Association, tobacco from the Wholesale Tobacco Trade Association and deep knowledge of coffee from I don't know where. And the ISG which is definitely deserves a place next to CMS in terms of quality knowledge and service.
Join one. They're fun and you'll find that more rainbows rise and unicorns appear the more you know about wine. Cheers.