The wine education system in the country is broken, and it never worked in the first place.
Now that I've been in the Wine industry for 13 years, I feel like I've learned a few things. Can I recite all of the Grand Crus of Burgundy off the top of my head? No. Have I ever needed this skill? No. But I do know the style differences of Meursault and Puligny-Montrachet. I didn't learn that from reading about it either, I learned it from tasting and discussing. Memorization is learning for 2nd graders. Blind tasting? It's a parlor trick. It's training for the day when some one's 10,000 bottle cellar somehow loses all of it's labels, but the wine remains in tact. Then, if you have this skill, you will be airlifted in. Otherwise, it's as useful as the 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon game (which, incidentally, I'm really good at). Sure, you can argue that blind tasting really just exercises your tasting muscles and is one of the only quantifiable ways to determine some one's understanding of wine. I suppose that's a fair argument, I just completely disagree with trying to test it.
There are plenty of organizations that host testing, and most people throw around the term "Sommelier" without any regard for what this means. First, it translates to "wine mule". Think about the glamor of that little nugget. Second, a Sommelier works in a restaurant. Period. I worked in a restaurant, and I passed the first level Court of Master Sommeliers in 2000. I held the title of "Sommelier" at a great restaurant that utilized the position. MS Madeline Triffon, has been know to say, you can can call yourself a Sommelier, when you are a Sommelier. Today, I am reluctant to use that term, mostly because it's flat out confusing for consumers,and they are immediately intimidated. This is problematic when trying to open people up to new ideas and discussing their tasting experiences. The only other title available is "Master Sommelier". There are plenty of other of organizations that offer similar titles such as "Wine and Spirits Professional", etc. Here is my big knock on these organizations: They are really good at holding tests, but very few offer genuine education. Further, the testing is suspect from a practical standpoint. Most of what you learn to take these tests is memorization (theme alert), which my 8 year old could do. Very few of these courses offer real world, practical experience. Last I checked, very few Universities offer much in the way of majoring in wine education either (obviously aside from the usual suspects).
Don't get me wrong, if you are a Master Sommelier, I have tremendous respect for the work you have done to get there, I could never do it. For the rest of us, what is the point in chasing all of these letters, if they don't really mean much? These letters sort of create more problems by their sheer existence. Wouldn't it be worthwhile to actually sponsor textbooks, courses and seminars absent of any testing. I remember when I took my exam, the 2 days of classes were more about trying to figure out what questions they were going to ask, rather than comprehending the material. Again, memorization.
What we need is an industry-wide, real world, practical education curriculum. Most of the people in the wine industry are lousy educators. We should enlist actual educators to help us develop courses that are engaging and promote a true understanding of wine. Right now, the testing organizations feel exclusive, if not outright, simply by the sheer existence of the silly letters. They should be resources and feel inclusive to the novices. Testing should be saved for the end of each course only used to gain access to the next level. There is no reason for someone to hold 5 different accreditation that all basically teach and test the same thing. It's like saying "I passed English-101, five different times". Right now, it's easy to find a tester, but next to impossible to find a teacher.