Six new Master Sommeliers announced following exam resit

The Court of Master Sommeliers has announced six new Master Sommeliers, all of whom have now passed the gruelling exam twice after a scandal earlier this year stripped 23 newly-crowned candidates of their titles.

Andrey Ivanov, Douglas Kim, Mia Van de Water, Max Kast and Steven McDonald. (Dana Gaiser not pictured.)

Announcing the news yesterday in a Facebook post, The Court of Master Sommeliers announced the six who had passed their qualification, following the Diploma tasting examination which was held on 5 December. The court praised them for commitment and dedication to the industry.

The six new Master Sommeliers, all of whom have now passed the exam twice, are: Dana Gaiser of Lauber Imports in New York; Andrey Ivanov of Bliss Wine Imports in San Francisco; Douglas Kim of Picasso in Las Vegas; Mia Van de Water of Eleven Madison Park in New York; Max Kast of Broadbent Selections in Chapel Hill, North Carolina; and Steven McDonald of Pappas Bros. Steakhouse in Houston. This takes the total number of Master Sommeliers in the world to 279.

All six MS students first passed the tasting exam back in September this year, giving them the title of Master Sommelier. However, in October, they were stripped of the accolade after the The Court of Master Sommeliers found “clear evidence” than an existing MS had revealed the wines that were to be tasted in advance.

The court has never officially named the MS involved but stated that they had been barred from participating in any Court of Master Sommeliers Americas programmes or events, had their membership terminated and had been stripped of their title. It did state that “detailed information” about the wines in the tasting flight was found to have been released prior to the exam, but it did not say whether this information was actually seen by any of the candidates or indeed if it was, how many saw it.

After the decision to void the exam, the court added that it would refund all fees for the exam, hold two retesting opportunities, waive the examination fee for the retest and offer appropriate travel cost assistance for the retest.

It offered all 54 students who took part in the tasting portion of the exam in St Louis, Missouri in September the opportunity to retake the exam. In September’s exam, 23 students who passed were later stripped of the MS accolade.

30 of those 54 candidates chose to resit their exams in December rather than in April 2019. It was not revealed how many of those 30 candidates had already passed the exam.

Speaking to Chron.com, Steven McDonald branded his experience earlier this year “shocking and devastating” but credits his friends, family and employers for being “so supportive”.

He added: “This feels even better than it did (in September). It’s the craziest and hardest thing I’ve ever gone through in my life. But it’s also bittersweet. A lot of my friends who passed before didn’t make it, and I know how they’re feeling right now. I was relieved and happy but sad at the same time for those who didn’t pass”.

McDonald also told the news site that following the decision on 9 October, people who had received an MS pin in September were not required to return them, but were asked not to display them in public or refer to themselves as Master Sommeliers. Had McDonald failed his exam, he would have had to re-take both the theory and service portions of the exam as well.

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