Become a Wine Sommelier

If you’ve ever imagined yourself wearing a silver tastevin cup on a chain around your neck and offering diners Give Advice on choosing the finest wines to accompany their meals, the role of wine sommelier may be for you. The task involves much more than uncorking and pouring, however; sommeliers often help develop a restaurant’s wine list, and are responsible for ordering and proper storage of the wine inventory. There is no required course of education to become a wine sommelier, but there are a number of certification levels available. This article provides advice to launch your career as a wine sommelier.


  1. Gain experience by working in the wine or fine restaurant industry.
    • No matter how much formal training or education you’ll get, it’s important for a sommelier to have hands-on experience working with wine. You might be able to start right where you are. Entry level jobs for aspiring sommeliers include wait staff, wine retailer, winery tasting room employee or wine import clerk.
    • Use your experience to develop your understanding of customers’ palates, leading wine producers and the practical aspects of the wine trade. A sommelier needs to have real-world knowledge of both the front-of-house (helping diners choose and taste wines) and back-of-house (building a wine list, working with retailers and Choose a Good Winemaker) aspects of the job.
  2. Combine practical experience with formal and informal wine education.
    • While you are working your way up, take advantage of opportunities to learn everything you can about wine. Read industry publications, annual wine guides, blogs and connoisseur magazines. Attend wine tastings. Join wine trade associations. Improve your own palate by sampling various combinations of wines and foods.
    • Universities and community colleges, especially in large urban areas or wine growing regions, often offer extension courses in wine appreciation. These can add to your sommelier skills without the substantial investment of time and money that certification and advanced wine education programs require.
  3. Achieve certification.
    • No certification is legally required for sommeliers, and you may be able to get a job in a mid-range restaurant or private club on the basis of experience, self-teaching and a good palate alone. However, becoming a certified sommelier will increase your chances of being hired by a higher quality restaurant, thereby increasing your earning power and respect in the wine world.
    • Sommelier certification programs are available in many locations and take a variety of forms. Most take several months, cost thousands of dollars and combine study, writing and exams that become more rigorous at higher degrees of certification.
    • The Society of Wine Educators, The Culinary Institute of America, The Sommelier Society of America, and Boston University’s Elizabeth Bishop Wine Resource Center are among many institutions that provide sommelier certification programs.
  4. Advance to the highest levels of wine wisdom.
    • The highest degree of wine education is provided by 2 organizations that award advanced titles after several years of thorough, costly study. These programs graduate very few students each year, but sommeliers who have achieved these coveted rankings can generally be assured of securing the highest level of employment and respect in the wine community.
    • The Court of Master Sommeliers awards a Master Sommelier (MS) degree, which is internationally recognized as the authoritative credential for buying and serving wine. Passage of all 4 stages, each of which culminates in exams, is required to earn the Master Sommelier ranking. Only a little over 100 people worldwide have attained this standing.
    • The Institute of Masters of Wine offers seminars in the U.S., Europe and Australia. The self-paced program takes 3 years or more; a residential option shortens the process to 2 years. There are about 250 people worldwide who have earned the title Master of Wine.


  • Talk with sommeliers in fine restaurants you visit. Ask where they received their training, and what they would recommend as a career course.


  • Fees for sommelier certification programs are high. Elite titles like the Master of Wine or Master Sommelier are even more expensive, and the exams are very rigorous. Unless you are serious about moving to the top of your field, and believe you have the ability, time and finances to take on these programs, you’ll probably do just as well preparing to become a wine sommelier with a combination of on-the-job experience, extension courses and self-teaching.

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