The Court of the Master Sommeliers aims to restore its reputation after being plagued by scandals –

The Court of the Master Sommeliers aims to restore its reputation after being plagued by scandals –
CEO Julie Cohen Theobald, left, and the president of the sommelier court Emmy Vinice, president of the sommelier court. (Melissa Monosoph, MS)

Two years ago, an American winery court ran into a triple problem. During the Black Lives Matter protests, the wine industry as a whole – and the sommelier fraternity itself – were scrutinized for its lack of racial diversity. Explosive New York Times Investigation A few months later, the court was shocked by allegations of sexual misconduct by some of #MeToo’s top members, as more than a dozen women who participated in the court’s examination program had made accusations about the master sommelier who pushed them to have sex. It all happened during the Coronavirus pandemic, which closed restaurants across the country and forced many sommeliers into different professions.

The programs aim to enter the “club of spoiled whites” in the world of wine.

This was a fantastic boost for the organization, which has gained popularity over the past decade as a result of the restaurant’s and consumers’ growing commercial interest in wine. The Somme series of films reflected the dedication and professionalism required to fulfill the long-awaited title of Master Sommelier Red Lapler, the highest title in the profession. The films also showed the altruism and some degree of recklessness that accompanies professional activities focused on alcohol consumption.

A fraud scandal in 2018 tarnished the court’s image, and three crackdowns in 2020 plunged the court into an inconsistent abyss. A lot of money was at stake. Master Soms are rare. Only 172 out of 269 people in the world are court masters of sommeliers in America. Some continue to work on the restaurant floor once they have reached their pads. They often move into corporate positions, run a beverage program for restaurant groups, work with importers or distributors, or even wineries. That doesn’t mean they’re quitting the profession – they often do wine education and training for restaurant staff, conduct court certification courses, and teach exams. (This goes all the way to the sexual harassment scandal.) If the court loses prestige and prestige, it loses the touch of the needle.

Thus, at the end of 2020, the US Board of Directors resigned en masse and the members elected a new board headed by two women. (Twenty-eight of the department’s 172 masters are women.) The new board hired a professional ethics expert to review its code of ethics, signed a contract with a company that specializes in harassment to transform its corporate culture, and hired a third party. part. The investigator will investigate the allegations of harassment. o The investigation was completed in November when the court expelled six members, including Fred Demi, the first American sommelier to earn a master’s degree, and helped found the organization in the United States.

“We faced a lot of criticism, but when the previous board stepped down completely, it allowed us to say everything was on the table,” said the new board chairman, Emily Wines. Wines earned her badge in 2008 and is Vice President of Cooper’s Hawk Winery Beverages program.

The court of the master sommelier was cited in court for racism. Now it promises change.

To make the board more professional, the board hired a CEO to manage day-to-day operations. They selected Julie Cohen Theobald, who has more than two decades of experience as a brand manager at Procter & Gamble and also works in the non-profit sector.

Theobald had no experience in the wine or service industry, but he loved defying legal scandals.

“There are several opportunities to influence gender and diversity issues in life,” Theobald said in a recent interview. “We may be a small organization, but we have some degree of influence on industry and perhaps society.”

Since Theobald joined the court last fall, the board has added four new members from outside the wine industry. They brought experience in human resources, certifications, hospitality and diversity. He said the goal is to move to a “classic non-profit structure” that will have long-term changes in the wine service industry.

Diversity is the key to this change. “This is a male-dominated industry, so we want to make sure it’s a safe space and let women report concerns rather than just being silent,” Wines said. She said. To this end, the court has set up an independent hotline for harassment complaints.

It has also taken steps to promote racial diversity. “We cannot say that our programs are open; “We have to watch who comes to the door first,” Wines said. “So we created 100 scholarships for people of color, women and people in need to complement our awareness program.” This program is already online, eliminating the travel expenses of candidates taking the exam in major cities due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The new board is also moving away from celebrities to promote professionalism.

“This is the service and commerce sector, so we want to raise the profession, not raise the sommelier superstars,” said Wines. “Especially after Covid, the profession has changed a lot and we must change too. When restaurants go through tough times, the sommelier often cuts first. We want to emphasize not only the knowledge of wine, but also how to manage a beverage program and a restaurant. “

We may not see master bracelet pins “sommager,” a slang term for combined sommeliers and managers. But by becoming more versatile, the sommelier can become more important.

Source: Washington Post