Hospitality Management Program Hosts Court of Master Sommeliers

Charlotte Tuggle | Communications Editor

Photo of Hospitality Management five students holding up their introductory Court of Master Sommeliers certificates.

Last weekend’s program was among the most successful Court of Master Sommeliers college workshops to date.

On this seventh year the Introductory Course was held at Auburn University, nearly all of the CHS students who participated passed the notoriously difficult sommeliers’ exam. The course and successful completion of the examination is the first of four steps to becoming a Master Sommelier.

The Court of Master Sommeliers is the premier agency for beverage knowledge and service standards in hotels and restaurants. Internationally renowned as the best wine tasters in the world, the Court’s members study art, science and history of spirits to inform their work. The agency visited Auburn last weekend to train and test participants on wine and spirit knowledge, proper wine service and blind tasting.

Anne Bowab, a senior in hospitality management, said the first day started off with the basics then focused on France.

“France is one of the most important places when it comes to wine. We also learned about wine in all of Europe, the United States, South America, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. We learned the basics of cider, beer, sake and spirits as well as the service and tastings of beverages,” Bowab said. “The most enjoyable part of the whole weekend was, of course, the tasting of fine wines.”

The exam at the end of the program, consisting of 75 multiple choice questions, covered everything that was discussed in the course. Bowab was one of the students to pass the test. And though the program is challenging, Bowab said it’s an experience she’ll never forget.

“Although it is a very busy weekend with early mornings and high stress, it is a weekend during which you will learn more in than any other. You will get to drink wines from all over the world and some you've never had before,” Bowab said. “You’ll never pair a meal with the wrong wine again.”

By the end of the weekend, successful candidates have learned about all of the major wine regions in the world and how to properly serve a comprehensive range of alcoholic beverages. Associate Professor Yee Ming Lee in the Department of Nutrition, Dietetics and Hospitality Management said the course was a nice blend of theories and practice.

“I always claim myself as a ‘foodie’ and I teach the food production class at Auburn. However, my exposure to and understanding of wines were very limited,” Lee said. “I am working to equip myself with a more solid theoretical and practical understanding of wine, not only for my own growth, but also for the benefits of my students.”

Lee – who passed the exam – said she can now discuss wines with a higher level of knowledge and confidence because of the course. She also complimented the Master Sommeliers for their enthusiasm and professionalism throughout the workshop.

Master Sommelier Thomas Price helped lead the course, and he said seeing the candidates learn is personally and professionally rewarding.

“It is so wonderful to watch minds open up to the world of wine,” Price said, also noting how often he encounters hospitality professionals that had taken the course. “It is such an honor to see their passion and knowledge of the world of wine assist them in their careers. It is my continued pleasure to be associated with this wonderful hospitality program and peerless University.”

Price said this weekend’s program was one of the Court’s most successful university courses yet, with 90% of participants passing the final exam. Chip Curtis, a senior in Hospitality Management, scored highest in the class.

Curtis passed the exam once before, working as a bartender and sommelier since, and now hopes to move on to the second level of certification. He said the intensive schedule covered comprehensive studies of wine regions and grapes around the world.

“It is always an extremely educational and fun class to take. Fast paced for sure, but it’s very difficult to travel everywhere in the world in two days,” Curtis said. “Most of my studying came intrinsically through my current job as a sommelier at The Hotel at Auburn University.”

Hospitality department head Martin O’Neill said this year was “an outstanding program and performance by our students,” led by Masters Thomas Price, Chris Tanghe and Maximilian Kast.