How to become a sommelier

Thanks to the recent release of the movie “Somm”, there has been more interest than ever in what it takes to become a sommelier. The internationally recognized Court of Master Sommeliers is considered by most in the wine trade as the organization responsible for bestowing the title of sommelier. There is nothing to stop someone unqualified from using the term “sommelier”, however, having earned the right through The Court of Master Sommeliers gives an assurance to customers or employers that the individual has met the high standards of the Court. A sommelier, simply put, is a wine steward. These days, due to the ever growing popularity of wine, a sommelier can frequently be put to great use in a number of sectors other than in a restaurant; retail, distribution, importing, and education. A Master Sommelier is considered a foremost expert in the field of wine. There are only 140 individuals who have earned the title of master sommelier in North America. The scope of knowledge is enormous and includes service, blind tasting, history, geology, and geography. There are four exams that the Court offers. In ascending order they are the Introductory Course & Exam, Certified Sommelier Exam, Advanced Course & Exam, and Master Sommelier Exam. Most people pass the Introductory Course “aka” Level 1. The Certified Sommelier exam requires considerably more study and preparation. The Advanced and Master Sommelier exams are each exponentially more difficult. There are three parts to all the exams from Level 2 and up: service, blind tasting, and theory. A candidate must pass all three sections to receive their diploma for the course. The world of wine is very big and I would encourage anyone interested in becoming a sommelier to take the Introductory Course and Exam. During the two day course you are walked through the deductive analysis of blind tasting, service standards, and you are given an idea of scope of knowledge required. It is very informative and I would recommend it for any wine professional, even if going on to future levels isn’t your plan. A very helpful resource for those who wish to sit for any of the exams is the website for The Guild of Sommeliers. A membership gives you access to study guides and materials that would be much more difficult and expensive to obtain without it all in one place. If you are interested in pursuing this path I recommend periodically checking The Court of Master Sommelier’s website to see when a Level 1 Course and Exam is being held somewhere convenient for you to attend.

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