How to become a wine sommelier

wine sommelier

Author: Liz Andersen

How to become a wine sommelier

As a result of our complete change of lifestyle inflicted on us by the COVID-19 virus, a great deal of people have found themselves with extra time on their hands to think about their future, post this dreadful pandemic.

When things return to normal (whatever normal turns out to be over the next few months/years) many people will have had time to reflect and realise that a change of career is something they would value.

There are many courses of study which are available online, and huge amounts of information on careers, and the wine industry is no exception to that. Excellent news!

I was asked to look into how to become a wine sommelier, and as a wine lover and current student on the WSET Diploma in Wines, that certainly appealed and my research has really made me appreciate what is involved not only in becoming a good sommelier, but the massive array of skills required to perform the role.

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Wine Sommelier: the many paths available

There are several routes one can take. These include building up your knowledge of wines and wine service by working in a reputable wine bar or restaurant, earning on the job as it were.

Of course, there are formal qualifications which would really give you a great kick-start, such as:

  • Professional certificate by the Worldwide Sommelier Association (WSA)
  • The Certified Sommelier Course: A Diploma that is internationally recognized which will allow you to work all around the world
  • Diploma in Wine, Gastronomy and Management
  • Degree in Hospitality and Management

There is even a Master Sommelier course which you can undertake after a number of years of experience. It’s a pretty elite club, with only around 270 world wide.

However, it seems that extensive wine and vineyard knowledge, managing a cellar and stock control, an understanding of how to correctly serve the wine at the right temperature, who to serve first at the table (always the ladies first …. Sorry chaps), etc is just the tip of the iceberg.

To be a good wine sommelier, an individual must have exceptional interpersonal skills and be able to treat each guest as though they are a personal guest in their home. They must be approachable, and have really good listening skills, too.

But being a sommelier is not always that awesome...

The rewards of the role can be good for someone who offers an exceptional customer experience, but it’s not a job for everyone. The hours can be ridiculously long, with a great amount of time spent on your feet! (Wearing lovely cushioned trainers would not fit the strictly smart dress code, sadly).

Customers can be difficult, so those with a thin skin may find it hard ….. it would be tempting but such a shame to empty a decent English Sparkling Wine into someone’s lap, despite the provocation!

But if that hasn’t put you off, I would certainly recommend taking a look at the films such as Somm 3, which really gives you a great flavour of what it is all about …. It’s also quite amusing as it pitches some “legends” in the world of wine against some new boys on the block with a surprising outcome. Hope that hasn’t spoiled the story line for you.

So, to “Somm” up …. Groan …. I think this quote says it all: “Guests don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”.

Jeff Kellogg, Wine Director at Maialino.

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