Becoming a Sommelier
I never in a million years thought I would become a sommelier. I have long been a fan of wine, but it wasn't until working in the restaurant industry that I really fell in love with everything about it. There are a few questions I frequently get, so I thought I would answer them here.
Somme-WHAT?! Simply put, a sommelier is a wine steward. But for many, this definition does not do the job justice. A sommelier is someone who has gone through extensive training in service, food pairing, wine making, and much more. Often, a sommelier's knowledge extends beyond the scope up wine and involves beer, cocktails, spirits, etc.
How does someone become a sommelier? There are four steps to becoming the top qualification of Master Sommelier.
Introductory Sommelier Certificate: This is a two day course with an exam held on the morning of the third day. Things covered in this course include wine making procedures, technical skills of wine service, fundamentals of food pairing, and wine tasting. The examination consists of multiple-choice theoretical questions with a small service test. This exam must be passed with a 60% in order to continue to the next stage.
Certified Sommelier Examination: This is a one day examination. The pre-requisite for this course is a passing of the introductory sommelier certification course. This exam involves three sections, each requiring a 60% to pass. There is a short, written theory test with 40 multiple-choice and short-answer questions, a blind tasting test over two wines, and a practical service test.
Advanced Sommelier Certificate: This five day course, followed by 2.5 days of examinations, is for individuals who are already well-versed in wine service and wish to develop their knowledge and skills further. The examination is a 1 hour theory exam with 24 multiple-choice questions and 60 short-answer questions, a practical tasting of 6 wines tasted blind in 25 minutes, and a 45 minute practical service test.
Master Sommelier Diploma: Only 233 candidates around the world have earned this prestigious title. The examination is similar in format to that of the Advanced Certification, but with a pass mark of 75%, instead of 60%. All aspects of service, ability to sell wine, technical and social skills, and wine knowledge are evaluated at this level.
My story I am currently a certified sommelier. I went through the process pretty quick since I was about to start my MBA program and I didn't want to be studying for both at the same time. I took my introductory course in July of 2014 and my certified examination August of 2014. The certified exam was honestly one of the hardest exams I have ever taken. I studied everyday for a little over one month, which included bugging my fellow somm friends to help with blind tasting and service, multiple gallon ziplocs full of note cards (color coordinated by country), and countless books on wine theory and production. All of the hard work paid off and I was able to pass my first time. Yay! Even though I am out of the service industry, I continue to further my wine knowledge every chance I get. My love for wine is one of the reasons I started this site! I love answering questions about wine, so please do not hesitate to ask! If I don't know the answer, I will happily send you to the right place :-)
I leave you with some throw-back pics...