The gruelling process behind becoming a Master Sommelier

03 November, 2016 by
Danielle Bowling

Ben Hasko has become Australia’s third Master Sommelier.

Sydney-based Hasko, who runs Cru Wines, a specialist wine importer and distributor, as well as Bootleggers, an online wine retailer, joins Franck Moreau MS of Merivale and Sebastian Crowther MS of the Rockpool Group, who have also passed the gruelling exams.

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Preparing for entry into the Court of Master Sommeliers takes years of preparation – to be eligible for the exam you must first graduate as an Introductory Sommelier, then a Certified Sommelier, and then an Advanced Sommelier, before applying to be considered. Entrance to the final exam is by invitation only.

Since the Court’s inception in 1969, only 236 people have graduated and each year the pass rate is typically less than five percent. This year, just six people have gained Master Sommelier status.

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The average candidate sits for the exam roughly three times, however Hasko passed on his first attempt.

“It is a pretty intense experience. There are three components to the MS diploma. If you pass one or two components the first time you try then they say ‘the clock has started’. You then get two more attempts over the next two years to be successful in the remaining components. If you aren’t, then you have to start all three from scratch. I am very fortunate to have achieved all three components in one sitting and I’m very honoured to have been awarded the inaugural Dom Ruinart Trophy in recognition of this.”

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Hasko, who’s worked at Sydney’s Rockpool and Vue de Monde in Melbourne, added “I really enjoyed being a sommelier. Not only discovering amazing wines for myself but learning how to read a customer’s palate, understanding what they want and will love – even when they sometimes can’t communicate it themselves – and being a part of them discovering something new. This is what got me interested in starting to study for the sommelier exams back in 2011 and it was a natural progression that I ended up studying for both the Master of Wine and Master Sommelier at the same time.”