Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

What it Means to be a Master Sommelier: A Conversation with Devon Broglie

Devon Broglie, MS, is Associate Beverage Buyer for Whole Foods Market®. He’s also something else — a Master Sommelier (that’s what the MS stands for), meaning he knows more about wine than anyone you’re likely to meet. Ever. Really!

The journey to Master Sommelier takes thousands of hours of studying, swirling, sipping and spitting, culminating in a final exam that some have called the most difficult in the world. Of the thousands who have taken the exam in the US, only 135 have passed.

Read on for Devon’s thoughts on what it means to be a Master Sommelier.

Besides being an authority on wine, what exactly is a Master Sommelier?

Basically, a Master Sommelier is a beverage steward and a master of the craft of servitude. Being a Master Sommelier requires humility and a deep understanding of service.

Most Master Sommeliers work in a restaurant setting. How is your experience at Whole Foods Market different from the experience of most Master Sommeliers?

Most Master Sommeliers honed their skills and studied for their exam in a restaurant setting. I think I’m one of only two Master Sommeliers in retail. I consider myself very fortunate to be working at a company I love, with great people.

One of the things I love about being in retail, and especially at Whole Foods Market, is the volume of wine styles and brands I work with. Most restaurants have no more than a few hundred wines on their Wine List — at Whole Foods Market I get to work with thousands!  And when I am in the stores I often get to talk with hundreds of people a day about wine.

How do you stay "on top" in an ever-changing wine world?

Teaching and administering introductory wine courses helps keep me sharp. And being an active member of the Court of Sommeliers exposes me to a lot of information. Just being immersed in the world of wine gives me a deeper knowledge of the industry.

What motivated you to become a Master Sommelier?

After college I moved to work at a winery in Spain. I discovered that I didn’t want to be a wine maker, but I did want to learn and study as much as I could about the world of wine.

The Master Sommelier teachers of the first wine course I took set such an example of humility and openness—it made me want to become an MS that much more. I found theconcept of being the best at something, learning as much as I could, intriguing. And I thought it would provide an avenue for me to have a larger voice in the world of wine, and it has done that.

What’s the reality of being a Master Sommelier vs the expectation?

People want to believe the romanticized view that I get paid to drink wine all day.  It is a far cry from that but I feel very fortunate to be making a living doing what I love.

I thought once I passed the exam I’d have a lot more time on my hands since I wasn’t putting in those crazy study hours. Not true. I now travel the country and the world representing Whole Foods.  I volunteer and I am on the boards of various Food and Wine organizations.

As an MS and an active member of the Court of Sommeliers, I teach and mentor quite a bit. That alone is more rewarding and educational for me than I thought it would be.

Any words of advice or encouragement for someone interested in becoming a Master Sommelier?

You not only need passion, but also dedication, and a willingness to sacrifice. By sacrifice I mainly mean time — weekends, weeknights, time you might rather spend with friends or loved ones, that time is taken up in studying. Be prepared to work very, very hard!

Devon, along with Doug Bell, Global Beverage Buyer for Whole Foods Market, is most likely travelling the globe at this moment, sourcing scrumptious wines, spotting new trends and doing his best to keep Whole Foods Market at the top of the wine world.

Do you have any questions for our Master Sommelier?