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How Do I Earn Sommelier Certification?

A sommelier showing a bottle of wine to a customer.
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  • Written By: Tiffany Manley
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 05 April 2014
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To earn sommelier certification, you must successfully complete two of the four levels toward becoming a master sommelier, or wine steward. These levels are “Introductory Sommelier Course and Exam” and “Certified Sommelier Exam." The remaining two levels that lead to master certification are “Advanced Sommelier Course and Exam” and “Master Sommelier Diploma Exam." Developed by the Court of Master Sommeliers, this program is recognized as one of the best by hospitality industry professionals around the world.

In order to begin the introductory course in sommelier certification, a minimum of three years in the wine and beverage industry is preferred. The course is a fast-paced, two-day course in areas such as proper service, wine knowledge and one of the most important aspects of being a sommelier: blind tasting. Those who have industry experience might find the class to be somewhat of a review, but it is an essential step in earning sommelier certification.

The Court of Master Sommeliers also recommends that attendees review certain books to gain a broader knowledge of the material to be tested. This ensures that those hoping to earn sommelier certification have a detailed knowledge of everything related to sommelier service. The course is taught by Master Sommeliers, and at the end of the two-day course, a multiple-choice exam is given. If the test is passed by answering at least 60 percent of the questions correctly, the student can move on to the next level, which is “Certified Sommelier Exam.”

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The “Certified Sommelier Exam” does not include coursework; it consists of a one-day exam. Each exam is broken into three parts: a written portion, a blind tasting and a service examination. The written portion of the test contains questions on things such as world wines and grape varieties, and the service examination tests the ability to serve wine or champagne properly. Blind tastings are done to demonstrate the ability to identify virtues and flaws of a wine, as well as informing a customer which wine would be best paired with his or her cuisine.

A score of 60 percent or better earns the student sommelier certification and a pin showing his or her achievement. Students also can progress to the next two levels of sommelier training, working toward master sommelier status. Classes are offered at various locations throughout the year, and courses generally cost several hundred US dollars apiece. Scholarship funds generally are available only for the two most advanced courses and exams.

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Ana1234
Post 4

I kind of want to go to a sommelier school just to learn more about wine. I don't actually want a job in a restaurant, but I've always wanted to know more about wine and this seems like it would probably be a cheaper option than taking other kinds of wine courses.

It sounds like they want you to have some experience before you can enroll though, so that might stop my chances of getting into the course.

pleonasm
Post 3

@indigomoth - I've seen those studies and I do wonder how many others have shown that there is some basis to the art of wine tasting. I mean, there are plenty of people with extremely sensitive taste buds who work in the wine industry and, while I know that the brain is a powerful thing and can trick you into thinking you're tasting something you aren't, I do think that there must be something to wine tasting. It's been a respected tradition for hundreds of years and they actually build the sommelier certification around them being able to taste different flavors. If there wasn't a difference between a chardonnay and a pinot gris, I think that more people would fail the sommelier test.

indigomoth
Post 2

I wonder what the average person who has done some kind of wine sommelier certification thinks about the fact that quite a few studies have been coming out suggesting that wine tasting is basically all fake.

There was a recent study, for example, where a group of experts were given a white wine and asked to describe it, then given the same wine, just dyed red and asked to describe it again. The second time they all completely believed it was red wine and described it in different terms than they did for the first one.

Which makes me wonder how much of being a wine taster, or completing an exam that has a blind tasting component, is simply knowing how to describe a wine in the correct terms, regardless of what it might actually taste like?

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