Ready to take your wine game to the next level? The ultimate bragging right in the wine world is to become a certified sommelier. A word deriving from French, this person was originally tasked with transportation of supplies within the royal court. The position can command a decent salary, in some places up to $120k annually, and open opportunities for work in some of the best wine producing regions of the world. Ready to do it? Here’s a more detailed look at how long it takes to become a sommelier, where to find online sommelier courses, and a look at what you can do once you’ve earned your sommelier certification.
What Is a Sommelier?
A sommelier is a trained wine professional. Also known as a wine steward, a sommelier typically works in fine restaurants and is considered an expert in all areas of wine knowledge. This includes wine and food pairing as well as the service of wine. They can suggest certain wines to consumers and are generally responsible for compiling and maintaining an establishment’s wine list.
How long does it take to become a Sommelier?
This will be relative to how much experience each individual has or wishes to attain. While a basic certificate can be attained in under a year, advanced certifications can take years of experience and education to achieve.
How Much Does it Cost to Become a Sommelier?
In general, plan on spending about $1,000 on your coursework and certification. Of course, all the wine you need to purchase for palate tuning, pouring practice, and pairing know how will be extra. According to Wikipedia, it can cost anywhere from $800 to just over $3,000 to complete the education required to become an official sommelier.
How Do I get started?
Before you start paying for online courses, consider doing a bit of self-education. You’ll want to round out your palate and try a variety of different wines to develop and fine-tune your tasting abilities. Since taste preference will vary from person to person, it’s far more important to be able to identify the flavors in a wine, as well as their impact on the overall effect of the wine, more than your ability to correctly choose wines that you prefer.
Next, you’ll find it highly beneficial to do a bit of self-education on the leading wine regions, blends, and grape varieties of the world. A bit of wine making knowledge won’t hurt, either. Having this basic foundation of knowledge will make your certification courses less overwhelming and may speed up your course work time.
Finally, learn how to properly present, pop, and pour all sorts of wines. You can pick up a basic book on the topic and practice on your friends- trust us, they’ll love being your guinea pigs. Once you’ve got a bit of know-how under your belt, applying for a job at a restaurant to gain seniority and service experience will help you eventually become a resident sommelier.
There are a handful of organizations that offer prestigious memberships to wine sommeliers. Belonging to these organizations gives credibility to the certifications, education, and experience of a sommelier. These organizations include:
The National Wine School, California, USA
North American Sommelier Association, USA & Canada
International Sommelier Guild, Canada, China, USA
Cape Wine Academy, South Africa
Court of Master Sommeliers, Great Britain
Wine & Spirit Education Trust, Great Brittan
Associazoine Italiana Sommelier, Italy
Union de La Sommelier Francaise, France
Where Do Sommeliers Work?
By and large, you’ll find a majority of sommeliers working in high-end restaurants that offer extensive wine lists. This also includes wine bars and vineyards, of course, but the idea is the same. Knowledge and certification are not the only skills needed to be successful as a wine sommelier. As you’ll almost certainly be working in the service industry, you’ll also need to have the ability to read people, understand what they want (which may not always be the same as what they ask for) and excel at conflict resolution and service recovery.
Do I have to Get Certified?
If you want to call yourself a sommelier, officially, as opposed to a wine enthusiast, then yes; you do need to get certified. However, if your goal is simply to work in a fine restaurant selling and serving wine, then no, in most cases you will not need to have your certification. Bear in mind though, that a certified professional will almost always have an edge on job applicants who do not have professional certifications.