What does the word sommelier mean? Sommelier is a noun meaning wine steward. Becoming a sommelier takes time and effort on your part. Do you love wine? Maybe you already work in hospitality. If so, learning how to become a sommelier might be a great option. A wine sommelier is a specialized career path in the wine industry.
If you want to help people choose the right wine, help restaurants with wine pairings, and spend time learning about wine, this is a great career path for you. The following steps will help you to become a master sommelier.
Becoming a Sommelier
Work in the Hospitality Industry
You will need to gain one or two years of industry experience working at a restaurant, vineyard, wine bar, or winery.
This will help you to understand the elements of the job. Then, with the right experience, you can get hired later in the upscale restaurant industry as a wine sommelier.
Learn about Wine History
Studying the history of wine, its production, the different types of wines, and their pronunciation will help you on this career path.
Learning wine knowledge can be done by reading articles and books. Subscribing to wine magazines and taking virtual classes can help. Learn the ingredients, production methods, storage methods, serving methods, and everything you can about wine.
Practice Your Wine Tasting and Pairing Skills
You will need a discerning palate to become a wine sommelier. Learning which flavors pair well with chicken, pork, and steak takes time, and there’s no one-size-fits-all formula. So instead, take your wine knowledge and test your pairings on family and friends.
Learn about the winemaking process, attend plenty of wine events, and experiment on your own. Examine the different flavors and fragrances found within wine, as well. In addition, you should practice picking up on subtleties in the aroma when you taste wine.
Become a Certified Sommelier
After doing research about wine and how to become a sommelier, getting certified is the next step. A college degree is not a requirement for aspiring certified sommeliers. Instead, you will need to earn a certified sommelier certification. You will gain some industry experience first, and you will need the right introductory sommelier course and a skill-related wine program.
After completing the right coursework, you must pass the sommelier exam. Coursework will cover wine theory, history, hospitality, and palate development. Thus, the exam will cover three steps: a taste test, a theory exam, and a practical service exam.
Once you’ve gained a sommelier’s certificate, you will likely work as an apprentice under a master sommelier. Many sommeliers work as apprentices before they can be head sommeliers for a restaurant group or another business.
Different Certification for Master Sommelier Levels
There are many different sommelier certification programs offering certification levels for master sommeliers. The Court of Master Sommeliers offers four levels of sommelier training, including:
- Level 1: Introductory Sommelier Certificate – The introductory course to becoming a Sommelier will include two days in a classroom or online and an exam. This course will cover wine and beverage theoretical knowledge, a deductive tasting method, and wine service etiquette. In addition, you will learn how to decant wine, along with choosing the right wines and how to pour wine properly.
- Level 2: Certified Sommelier – At this level, you will start to become proficient in the areas you learned in level 1. This level doesn’t include any course but a one-day exam in tasting, theory, and service. You will need this intermediate wine certificate to start working as a sommelier in the hospitality industry.
- Level 3: Advanced Sommelier – You will take a three-day course and sit for a three-day exam to get this advanced wine certificate. You will need to have at least two years of work experience. The course will go deeper into theory, service, and tasting.
- Level 4: Master Sommelier Diploma– The final level from CMS is the master sommelier level. This level will require passing the master sommelier exam. In addition, it will cover written theory, verbal blind tasting, and performative wine service. It’s difficult to reach this level, but with your comprehensive knowledge of wines and your advanced knowledge of sommelier training, you can get your master certification.
Here is a list of some other wine schools that certify sommeliers as well:
- Institute of Masters of Wine – offers a three-level certification program that is heavier on academic study and wine theory.
- Wine & Spirit Education Trust – offers a four-level option for those looking to be a professional sommelier. In addition, they also offer spirit education.
- International Sommelier Guild – offers five sommelier certification levels with an intermediate certificate, advanced certificate, sommelier diploma program, ISGM sommelier, and ISGM sommelier degree.
- Wine Spectator School – offers courses if you become a member.
- Napa Valley Wine Academy – offers a three-level course, some abroad courses, and a 101 foundation course to get a foundation certificate.
- Cornell University Wine Certificate – offers three-level sommelier certifications.
These programs offer certification options and courses to learn about wine education.
Becoming a Sommelier Without Becoming Certified
You can become a wine sommelier without becoming certified. Typically, you will end up as a restaurant sommelier, but it can take wine professionals some time to achieve this. It’s not a guarantee you can gain employment as a sommelier without certification.
Usually, you will start as a waiter at a fine dining restaurant. Then, you will work your way up to a head server position. Throughout your work experience, you will need to study wine and work with restaurant management to earn the position. Waiting for a sommelier position to open up if you take this path can take quite a long time.
Top Online Courses for Wine Tasting
If you are becoming a professional sommelier or want to impress your friends with awesome wine knowledge, check out these courses.
- Wine in 9: The Complete Wine Tasting Course
- Taste Wine like a Sommelier
- How To Taste Wine - By a Sommelier
Winemaker Mike Mazey's unique guide to maximizing enjoyment and confidence when buying, drinking and talking about wine.
TV Host and Celebrity Sommelier Ryan Vet, takes you through how to taste wine like a professional.
Learn a structured approach for tasting wine from a sommelier with this new course.
Wine Sommelier: What Will You Be Doing
After you become a wine sommelier, you will be known as an expert in the wine business. You will understand wine theory, wine tasting, and serving wine. It’s an academic pursuit but will also include plenty of wine tasting.
You will do more than provide wine tastings and recommendations. Instead, you will train people to serve wine properly, along with many other jobs. As a result, you will be an important part of the hospitality industry.
As master sommeliers, you will help pair the right wine with entrees and other courses. It’s common to help put together a wine list for a restaurant. It’s necessary to be well-versed in all things wine, including specific notes, woods, kinds of wine, tannins, and the different wine regions.
Sommeliers may also help diners choose the right wine based on their budget and meal selection. It depends on the sommelier’s position, and it also depends on who you work for.
Sommeliers spend time visiting vineyards all around the world. It can be a career with plenty of travel. You will likely compete in competitions that may include blind tastings, as well. A sommelier is a professional wine taster and may even have their own wine cellar to drink wine with family and friends.
Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Sommelier
What is the average salary of a wine sommelier?
When you become a sommelier, you can earn a very nice salary. The median salary is nearly $62,000 a year.
How do you pronounce sommelier?
Sommelier is pronounced like this – suh-muhl-yay.
How many wine sommeliers are there?
While a complete list of actual sommeliers isn’t available, there is a list of master sommeliers. There are 273 professionals worldwide who have received the title of Master Sommelier since it was established in 1969. One hundred seventy-three of those master sommeliers are from North and South America.
What does sommelier mean?
While a sommelier is a job title, it’s also a certification. The definition is a wine steward, but it goes further when it becomes a job title. It’s more commonly used when referring to a wine sommelier for the definition to be a highly-trained wine professional.
Do I have to become certified to work as a sommelier?
No, however, it will help quite a bit. A certified sommelier is far more desirable than someone claiming to know about wine.
What is the cost of becoming a certified sommelier?
The typical cost to become a certified sommelier will be around $1,000. It will depend on the course you choose; this will not include the cost of gaining experience with different wines at home.
Can I learn about wine through documentaries and movies?
Yes, there are quite a few things you can learn about wine from the right documentaries and movies.
Some of the best options include:
- Barolo Boys
- Somm: Into the Bottle
- Our Blood is Wine
- Bottle Shock
- Back to Burgundy
- Wine Country
We recommend SOMM TV for all your wine documentary needs.
There's a world of wine and food waiting for you on SOMM TV. Stream unlimited shows and movies on your phone, tablet, laptop or TV. Save your data and enjoy all your SOMM TV favorites offline wherever you go.
Can I become a winemaker after becoming a sommelier?
Yes, and this is rather common. Sommeliers often become winemakers after gaining experience in the industry.
Can I become a sommelier for a beverage other than wine?
Yes. There are three other types of sommeliers. You can become a sommelier for beer, whiskey, or sake. A beer sommelier may also be called a cicerone.