Career Development

8 Sommelier Certifications To Help You Pursue a Career in Wine

October 7, 2021

Sommeliers share their wine expertise with guests by recommending which wines to pair with certain foods. To advance your wine knowledge, you can consider earning sommelier certifications. Understanding some certifications available to advance your wine knowledge and skills can help you gain credibility in the industry. In this article, we explain what a sommelier is and provide a list of 8 sommelier certifications to consider pursuing to advance your career.

What is a sommelier?

A sommelier is a wine expert with formal training in wine storage, pairings and service. They typically work for a fine dining establishment or restaurant, serving and recommending wines to guests. Sommeliers also stock the wine cellar, create a wine list for their establishment and inform guests about the different types of wine they have available. These professionals have a background in how wine interacts with senses, such as smell and taste. Depending on their amount of experience and knowledge, sommeliers can become different levels, ranging from a Level 1 to a Level 5, or a Master Sommelier.

Related: Steps and Tips for How To Become Sommelier

8 sommelier certifications

The following are some certifications to consider earning to advance your career as a sommelier:

1. Wine & Spirit Education Trust Level 1

A Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Level 1 certification provides students with an introduction to wine study for those just beginning a wine career or interest. During this program, students explore the main styles and types of wine using their senses. They also learn basic skills to help them make wine and food pairings, store wine and describe wines accurately. After completing this program, students earn a WEST certificate and lapel pin. Requirements to become a WSET Level 1 include:

  • Be at least 21 years old
  • Pay a $225 course fee
  • Pass a 30 multiple-choice question assessment

2. Level 2 Sommelier

The National Wine School Level 2 Sommelier certification helps individuals develop their skills in blind tasting. Here, they learn how to separate the layers of flavor of wines into their core components. Individuals also learn about different winemaking techniques, varietal fingerprints and the differences between regions. The Level 2 Sommelier certification program lasts seven weeks, with a two-part final exam comprising a blind tasting and written portion. Requirements to earn the Level 2 Sommelier certification include:

  • Pay a $450 course fee
  • Complete a Level 1 wine course

Related: 10 Hospitality Careers To Consider

3. Intermediate Wine Certificate

Another sommelier certification option for individuals to pursue is the Intermediate Wine Certificate (IWC), which helps build foundational knowledge of the wine industry and service. This is the first certification in a series of five offered by the International Sommelier Guild, a world licensed provider of Sommelier education. The IWC program teaches participants about the most prevalent grapes winemakers use. Students also learn the methodical approach to wine evaluation and professional sensory evaluation. Requirements to earn the IWC include:

  • Pay a $500 online class fee or $850 classroom environment fee

4. Certified Specialist of Wine

The Society of Wine Educators offers the Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) title to those with wine knowledge and mastery of key elements involved in wine production and viticulture. Topics discussed in this program include wine composition and chemistry, wine labels, pairings, wine etiquette and responsible alcohol service. Those who pass the CSW exam earn a certification, CSW lapel pin and the ability to use CSW in their professional signature. Requirements to become a CSW include:

  • Earn at least a 75% on the CSW exam
  • Pay a $550 theory exam registration fee or $325 for Society of Wine Educators members
  • Pay a $550 tasting exam registration fee or $325 for Society of Wine Educators members

Related: How To Write a Sommelier Resume (Plus Template and Example)

5. Certified Wine Educator

Offered by the Society of Wine Educators, the Certified Wine Educator (CWE) title prepares individuals to become wine instructors. In this program, individuals learn about wine etiquette and service, labels and the physiology of taste. They then take a three-part exam on tasting and restaurant service demonstration. Requirements to become a CWE include:

  • Pass the CSW certification exam within the past three years
  • Earn at least a 75% on the CWE exams
  • Pay a $550 theory exam registration fee, or $325 for Society of Wine Educators members
  • Pay a $550 tasting exam registration fee, or $325 for Society of Wine Educators members

6. American Wine Specialist

The North American Sommelier Association (NASA) recognizes individuals with the American Wine Specialist (AWS) title upon completion of their program on native and hybrid varieties offered in the country. Participants can choose between learning about the west coast intensive pod or the remainder of the United States. In the west coast program, students learn about the wine regions of California, Oregon and Washington. Those taking the full course learn an overview of American wine. Requirements to become an AWS include:

  • Pay the $590 for the full course or $395 for the West Coast Specialist program

7. Level 3 Advanced Wine and Food Pairing certificate

Those that have completed the first two levels of sommelier certifications can consider earning the Level 3 Advanced Wine and Food Pairing certificate through the International Wine Guild. This 10-week course focuses on teaching students how to develop technical wine and food pairing skills. Participants learn how sauces, spices and cooking techniques can influence a wine pairing decision. Each class includes four wines and a multi-portion meal prepared by a professional chef. Requirements to earn the Level 3 Advanced Wine and Food Pairing certificate include:

  • Pay the $2,070 course fee

Related: Q&A: How Much Does a Master Sommelier Make and What Do They Do?

8. Master Wine Taster

NASA offers the Master Wine Taster certification to Certified Sommeliers looking to enhance their technical tasting skills and qualifications. This course covers the North American Sommelier and Worldwide Sommelier Association's technical tasting methodology and scoring form. Participants learn about the human tongue and palate anatomy, winemaking, viticulture and the effects on wine and wine maturation. They then take a written exam with five blind tastings, using the NASA methodology and an oral exam with three blind technical tastings. Requirements to earn the Master Wine Taster certification include:

  • Pay the $295 application fee
  • Become a Certified Sommelier

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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