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Wine Spectator: Court of Master Sommeliers Chairman Steps Down, Group to Restructure After Outcry over Sexual Harassment

November 10, 2020

The chairman of the Court of Master Sommeliers-Americas (CMS-A) stepped down Friday, November 6, and the group announced plans for an overhaul, following its earlier suspension of seven male Master Sommeliers from all activities and the resignation of another. All stand accused of sexually harassing women who were pursuing certification with the group. Three additional Master Sommeliers were suspended that same day, and an independent investigator has been appointed to follow up on all allegations.

“We agree that a reformed CMS-A is the only path forward to ensuring the organization’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,” wrote board vice chair Virginia Philip in a letter sent Friday to all Master Sommeliers. Philip will oversee the transition, temporarily taking over from CMS-A chairman Devon Broglie, who resigned after numerous members of the sommelier community called for his departure and shortly before allegations of his own inappropriate behavior came to public light. She said she will oversee the transition and then step down at the end of her term. The group will hold a town hall with members on Nov. 11 to discuss proposed reforms and a timeline for a new board election.

On Sunday, November 8, following continued criticism, the Court publicly posted that the entire 15-member board would be up for election and resign as soon as new officers were voted in. The actions were sparked by a New York Times article detailing complaints about six of the men from 21 women who alleged that they had been groped, sent explicit texts, pressured for sex in exchange for professional favors, and even raped. Wine Spectator has the full story.—Dana Nigro & Julie Harans

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