So, what and who exactly is a Sommelier? Sommeliers are also known as wine professionals, wine stewards working with wine and other beverages. Part of a sommelier’s duties and responsibilities are advising patrons of wine choices according to their personal taste, needs, occasion, budget, wine and food pairing. A sommelier may also create drink list, select wines, manage stock, maintain prices list and product presentation, train staff about wine and other related duties.
Originally, a sommelier works in hotels and restaurant wine cellars and works with Chefs in pairing wines and dishes. However, today, wine professionals who have sommelier certifications also work in wine distributing companies, wine wholesalers, wine retailers, cruise ships, wine tasting rooms, wine sales, wine teaching establishments and some become wine maker, restaurant owners, wine importers, and others.
Becoming a sommelier is not easy. This is the reason why there are only few sommeliers around the world. Also, it’s a very competitive profession where you undergo extensive trainings and exams.
How to become a Sommelier?
First, you must have a genuine passion and wine interest. Unfortunately, attending recreational wine classes may not be the path to become a sommelier. To earn credential for this career, you must select accredited schools and training programs that will prepare you for Certified Sommelier Examination.
Here are few accredited institutions for Sommelier. On their websites, you may find accredited schools or approved program providers with courses and programs near you:
- North American Sommelier Association (NASA), United States and Canada
- Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET), UK
- Associazione Italiana Sommelier (AIS), Italy
- The Court of Master Sommeliers (CMS), UK
Once you completed the training program, your school or program provider will prepare you for the Certified Sommelier exam. Examination is available whole year round. Please note that there are accredited schools that offer extensive training programs which are not on the list of the above mention institutions. The Court of Master Sommeliers has more information about the exam. After certification, most schools/program providers have career services department that may assist you in finding the right position to get started on your path towards becoming a working Sommelier.
As tourism and hospitality industry is expanding, although competitive, there are plenty of jobs available for sommeliers, either in hospitality industry or wine industry. According to the most recent poll by the Guild of Sommeliers Salary Survey of 2014, the average salary for a Master Sommelier is $150,000 compared to the $78,000 for an Advanced Sommelier (from $30,000 to $78,000). According to salary.com the median salary for Sommelier is $54,000.