International sommelier organization to limit use of term 'master' after racism concerns

International sommelier organization to limit use of term 'master' after racism concerns
© Thinkstock/Istock/NatashaPhoto

The Court of Master Sommeliers, Americas is making changes to its procedures in an effort to become more inclusive, dropping the requirement that master sommeliers be addressed as master.

"The Board of Directors of the Court of Master Sommeliers, Americas universally condemns racism, prejudice, and racially motivated violence in all its forms," the group said in a statement. "We stand in solidarity with the Black community against racial injustice and support calls for reform."

The pledge for reform comes after a pair of wine professionals panned the community for its lack of inclusivity.

ADVERTISEMENT

In a June 16 Instagram post, Atlanta wine professional Tariirah Habibi opened up about her experience taking the Court’s introductory exam in New York in 2011. During the exam, Habibi explained that the administrators of the exam made her and the other candidates to address them as "master," a phrase rooted in the history of American slavery.

“I just kind of sank,” Habibi later told the San Francisco Chronicle. Although Habibi passed the exam, she declined to further her progress with the Court.

"I just couldn’t imagine having to pour a glass of wine for someone while calling them ‘master,’” Habibi added. She is the founder of the Hue Society, a group that supports Black wine professionals.

The day after Habibi shared her Instagram post, Richard Betts, a well-known master sommelier, announced that he resigning from the Court and abdicating his title, the first time a master sommelier has resigned from the organization.

Betts said that the Court had not taken a strong enough stance for racial justice.

“America is having this reckoning now, and this organization does nothing,” he said. “It’s not to say the (court) has to be the NAACP. But stand for something. Say what matters.”

He added: “It can do a lot better in terms of reaching a more diverse community, and I mean diverse in terms of race, economic background, privilege.”