What is the difference between a Master Sommelier (MS) and Master of Wine (MW)?

The MS and MW credentials have attained unrivaled status in their fields, however they are not associated.

· The Court of Master Sommeliers is the premier international examining body for standards of knowledge and service in the hospitality and beverage industry. Master Sommeliers are recognized globally as having mastered the art, science, and history that informs a sommelier’s work.

· The Institute of Masters of Wine establishes the highest examination standards in all aspects of the production, trade, and marketing of wine, as well as related health and ethical issues. Masters of Wine are recognized globally as holding the most prestigious credential in non-hospitality sectors of wine industry.

The two programs can be further understood by considering their relevant audience. Whereas the MS exam assesses a candidate’s expertise concerning the issues of greatest interest and worth to the wine consumer, the MW exam assesses mastery of subjects considered significant to the wine trade at large. Relatedly, the respective theoretical (wine knowledge) and practical (tasting acumen) portions differ in process.

For example, the theoretical MS portion consists of a demanding oral assessment pertaining to the “who (producer), what (grape varieties), where (origin), when (vintage), how (production)” of wine. These subjects and the precise manner in which they’re verbally communicated are, a priori, most relevant in a restaurant setting while wine is being ordered, consumed, and enjoyed.

By contrast, the theoretical MW portion is a rigorous series of essays exploring the “how” and “why” of five broad subjects: vinification, viticulture, handling of finished wine, the business of wine, and contemporary issues. Successful candidates demonstrate, through highly cogent writing, a thorough grasp of the many issues confronting the trade, i.e. the growing, making, maturing, or selling of wine.

The above dual theory-exam examples are merely illustrative and does not represent the exhaustive scope of both examinations. A link to the full syllabus of the Master of Wine examination can be found here https://www.mastersofwine.org/. For more details concerning the Master Sommelier credential, please visit their website here https://www.mastersommeliers.org/.

Finally, it should become evident that asking which credential is “more prestigious” starts from an incorrect premise – that they are comparable or interchangeable. To use an apt analogy, marathons and sprints both measures the speed of a competitive runner, however deciding which race is harder to medal in the Olympics misses the point.