Do you know there are various wine certifications out there besides being a Sommelier? If you do, do you know the difference between them? Sommelier is a familiar term and with the Somm Movies on the rise and wine cultural expanding, this profession is pretty well known. Wine collectors and avid foodies have been aware of these wine professionals, but those that are getting into wine or simply “enjoy” wine may not. We’ll give you quick view into four different wine certifications that cultivate amazing teachers and wine professionals, as well as where you can continue to grow your wine knowledge without the pressure of becoming a Master Sommelier.
The Court of Master Sommeliers (CMS) is probably the most well-known of all certifications. They set the global standard of excellence for beverage service within the hospitality industry with integrity, exemplary knowledge, and humility. The Court is perfect for those that want to work within restaurants or wine sales. There are a series of levels: Introductory, Certified, Advanced and Master. The Master Sommelier has been listed as one of the hardest tests in the world, with a pass rate of about 8%. Candidates must be familiar with the minutiae and legality of every wine grape varietal in the world, which is at about 10,000 at present time, not to mention the ever-expanding wine culture. Examinable content expands at a rate of about 5% per year. As of 2018 there are 274 Master Sommeliers in the world. From the American chapter 139 are men and 26 are women. Becoming a Master Sommelier (MS) can take about 5-7 years. The cost of one exam can be anywhere from $595 – $1195. Those CMS certification fees exclude travel costs, study materials, and the likely possibility of having to retake the exam upon failing. Wine education, like any other education, is an investment.
One of the most recent Master’s is a 24 year old women from Japan. AMAZING!
The Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) is a great place to start for those that are getting their feet wet in wine. Are you a wino that just wants to learn more? This educational series is great for you! Do not be fooled, WSET has five tiers of education, concluding with diploma as a prerequisite to apply to become a Master of Wine. The exams are mostly written, with blind tasting coming in for WSET 3 and above. For those that do not want to be in restaurants but want to learn more both Level 1 and Level 2 would be great pathways to gain more in-depth knowledge without the element of service or tasting examination. WSET also has an entire certification on spirits – for those that are equal opportunists when it comes to beverage consumption.
The Institute of Masters of Wine (IMW) is for those of you that want to pursue a career in the marketing of wine, or as a wine educator. Becoming a Master of Wine holds a lot of cachet in both fields. Acceptance into IMW involves already having a strong core of wine knowledge and experience, made evident by a WSET Level 4 Diploma or equivalent, and having the recommendation from a few Masters of Wine (MW). Be prepared to work hard for it, they call you a Master for a reason.
There is also such a thing of a Certified Wine Specialist. The Society of Wine Educators (SWE), founded in 1977, is a membership-based non-profit. The Society is internationally recognized and its programs are highly regarded for both their quality and relevance to the industry. The Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) Exam is a rigorous exam, which tests a candidate’s wine knowledge and mastery of key elements within the worlds of viticulture and wine production. The top achievement with SWE is Certified Wine Educator (CWE). This exam not only tests a candidate’s wine knowledge, but also validated his or her tasting acumen and teaching ability.
It is pretty amazing that there are a wide variety of opportunities available for those that have a passion in wine and growing their knowledge, regardless if you’re in the food and beverage industry or just trying to know more about wine in general. There are also great resources available, remember everyone wino started out the same, we knew nothing! Wine is just like every other industry in that is constantly developing. We promise there is always more to learn, and the more you learn it will feel like the less you know. Keep learning and asking questions! There are plenty of people who are wine educated and certified to help you along the way. You do not have to be a Master Sommelier to have a vast knowledge about wine. Just because someone isn’t a Sommelier doesn’t mean they don’t have any experience or equivalent knowledge.
Uncork a bottle of wine, enjoy the list below of our favorite wino reads. Cheers!
Resources for you
The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil – The best-selling wine book in the U.S., THE WINE BIBLE is used and recommended by every top wine school, every hospitality management school, every wine diploma program, and the Court of Master Sommeliers in the U.S.
Winefolly – Follow them on social media and get any of their books! The Essential Guide to Wine by Madeline Puckette & Justin Hammack is a great introduction into wine.
Adventures on the Wine Route: A Wine Buyer’s Tour of France by Kermit Lynch
The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson
The Sommelier’s Atlas of Taste: A Field Guide to the Great Wines of Europe by Rajat Parr & Jordan Mackay
Secrets of the Sommeliers: How to Think and Drink Like the Word’s Top Wine Professionals by Rajat Parr
SommTV – available to stream