The master sommelier expulsions won’t fix wine industry sexism, women say

On Wednesday, many in the wine world welcomed the news that one of the industry’s most selective and prestigious organizations made a long-awaited announcement: Following a nine-month sexual-misconduct investigation, the Court of Master Sommeliers, Americas had sufficient evidence to move to expel six of its members. The move, the court said, was in hopes of mending the organization’s mission for wine mentorship, among other goals.

But for some of the women who have long felt excluded from the court’s ranks, the process and actions didn’t go far enough. Though six members will likely lose their titles, a total of 22 master sommeliers were under investigation for inappropriate behavior. The court said some of those people will need to undergo training or temporary suspensions, but it did not reveal details about the repercussions.

It’s a result that, while many said was positive, may not be sufficient to keep the organization relevant after years of high-profile missteps. Even before the allegations of widespread sexual misconduct surfaced last fall, many in the wine community had already criticized the court for how it handled a cheating scandal and for its perpetuation of what some said was racist language. Throughout it all, this nonprofit organization failed to communicate transparently with its members and aspiring members, women said.

“It’s a great, huge step in the right direction,” said Liz Huettinger, a partner in a wine wholesale company who lives in San Diego. But she remains wary of how the court will “prevent things like this from happening in the future,” she added.

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