6 Frequently Asked Questions About Sommelier Training
Sommelier training is intriguing to wine lovers of all types. Maybe you are currently working in hospitality and want to add to your expertise and build your competitiveness in the workforce. Or maybe you just love wine and want to attain an education for your own personal benefit. Whether it's for personal or professional reasons, a sommelier school can help you achieve your ambitions.
As you prepare to set out on a new path, you may find it helpful to uncover the answers to six frequently asked questions about sommelier training.
1. What Could I Expect to Learn During Sommelier Training?
Wine can appear so simple on the surface. After all, it is just crushed grapes, right? But the truth is that wine is complex—so much so that many wine professionals have dedicated years of their lives to education. What you might learn about depends on the type of program you choose, but here are some of the most common topics you could go over in sommelier classes:
- The art and science of viticulture and vinification
- Grape varietals
- Wine regions of the world
- Old world vs. new world
- Food and wine pairing
- Wine tasting and service procedures
- Wine program management
- Beer, sake, and spirits production
2. Can I Take Wine Education Classes Without Having to Become a Sommelier?
Yes! Wine and beverage programs and sommelier courses can be beneficial for people who want to expand their knowledge without pursuing industry certifications.
3. How Do I Obtain Sommelier Certification?
There are many avenues to achieving sommelier certification. And although wine education is essential, certification is not a requirement in the industry. Several world-renowned sommeliers do not hold any certifications. However, achieving a sommelier designation can be quite prestigious. For example, only 230 individuals worldwide have earned the Master Sommelier designation through the Court of Master Sommeliers.*
While exploring how to become certified, you will find that several associations offer various levels of certification. So it is up to you to determine which one meets your needs best. The most common organizations are:
- Court of Master Sommeliers (Note that many wine and beverage programs can help prepare you to complete the first two certification exams offered by this organization.)
- American Sommelier Association
- International Sommelier Guild
- Sommelier Society of America
4. Are There Any Continuing Education Requirements Once I Become a Sommelier?
Once you have achieved any level of sommelier certification, you have no requirements for continuing education or recertification. However, it is in a wine professional's best interest to continue learning on an ongoing basis. The landscape of new-world wine is constantly evolving, and possessing current knowledge could enhance your employment prospects.
As both a wine enthusiast and professional sommelier, you will want to stay connected to the industry. It can be advantageous to find like-minded people you can meet with to share knowledge and taste new wines. You can also join online groups and subscribe to newsletters and magazines. And setting some time aside to visit wineries whenever possible can be both enjoyable and educational.
5. Where Do Sommeliers Work?
Sommeliers, or wine stewards, typically work in restaurants, especially higher-end restaurants with extensive wine menus. Career opportunities can also be found within specialty bars, liquor stores, and wineries. Sommeliers may also be hired privately or on a contract basis to work at special events and private parties.
6. What Is the Average Salary of a Sommelier?
Knowledge, experience, and certification level all play an important role in determining what you can expect to make as a sommelier. According to 2015 data, the average national hourly rate for sommeliers was $14.50 ($30,160 annually).** However, the most experienced and knowledgeable sommeliers can earn $80,000 to $160,000 per year.*** So you can expect to find quite a variance depending on your level of education, certification, and experience.
Start Exploring Your Options
Make a move toward your goals today and discover your options for sommelier training. You are steps away from having the opportunity to cultivate the wine knowledge you desire. Simply enter your zip code below to see the wine and beverage programs that are offered nearest you!
* The Court of Master Sommeliers, website last visited on September 29, 2015.
** PayScale, website last visited on September 29, 2015.
*** Forbes, "Unusual Jobs That Pay Surprisingly Well", website last visited on February 24, 2017.