Court of Master Sommeliers chairman steps down

Devon Broglie, chairman of the Court of Master Sommeliers Americas, has stepped down from his role following the sexual harassment scandal within the organisation exposed by The New York Times.

As reported by Wine Spectator, Broglie stepped down as chairman last Friday. The same day, The New York Times published a story in which a former student studying for the MS exam accused Broglie, global beverage buyer for Whole Foods Market, of having an inappropriate sexual relationship with her.

Last week the Court of Master Sommeliers Americas suspended seven male Master Sommeliers accused of sexually harassing 21 women undertaking the Master Sommelier Diploma from all CMS activities.

Devon Broglie has stepped down as chairman of the CMS-A

The sommeliers suspended: Greg Harrington, Eric Entrikin, Robert Bath, Matt Stamp, Matthew Citriglia, Drew Hendricks and Fred Dame, will be subject to an independent external investigation.

Thus far, the seven sommeliers in question have yet to be stripped of their MS title, as CMS-A bylaws require a 30-day waiting period before this can happen.

Following the scandal brought to light by The New York Times, the Court of Master Sommeliers Americas plans to overhaul the organisation.

“We agree that a reformed CMS-A is the only path forward to ensuring the organisation’s existence and integrity, and to better protect the people who look to be educated and earn the credentials for which we have all worked so hard,” board vice chair, Virginia Philip, said a letter sent to Master Sommeliers on Friday.

According to Wine Spectator, Philip will temporarily take over from Broglie following his resignation last week, before a new chair is elected.

The Court of Master Sommeliers Americas board will be re-evaluated following the scandal, and all members will be allowed to vote to replace the entire 15-member board, which is due to revise its bylaws and the ethics policy.

Many of the allegations of sexual harassment within the NYT article centred around Geoff Kruth, president of GuildSomm, who has since resigned from his position and forfeited his Master Sommelier title.

Pascaline Lepeltier has suspended her membership to the CMS-A

Following the scandal, three female Master Sommeliers – Alpana Singh of Terra & Vine in Illinois, Corkbuzz founder Laura Fiorvanti and Racines partner Pascaline Lepeltier – suspended their membership to the CMS-A in protest.

“There are those on the inside of the Court, genuine women and men who are working to transform from within, but for myself, I believe this is a time for stepping back, critical introspection, and a reevaluation of how I can be a positive force for good and encourage progress for my industry going forward.

“I have come to the conclusion that I can no longer align myself with an organisation which I feel doesn’t represent myself, both as an individual and as a participant within a larger group of professional peers and its members at large,” Pascaline Lepeltier said in a statement on Instagram.

“The systemic issues of racism, sexism, classism, homophobia and elitism are embedded into the DNA of this organisation and nothing good can be rebuilt from its foundation. It must be dismantled and we must begin again,” Alpana Singh, the first woman of colour to become a MS in North America, wrote in a post on her website.

Over 1,100 sommeliers have signed a petition calling for a boycott of the Court’s courses and exams until the entire board has stepped down.

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