Understanding Wine Certifications

There are eight major wine certification programs in the United States. Each has it’s own set of nomenclature and exam criteria. However, all wine certifications conform to  five levels of achievement.

It is important to know that all these major wine programs offer the same certifications.  A Master of Wine and a Master Sommelier are different titles for the same level of certification.


Wine Certification Levels

  • L1:  Level One Certification

    The basic level of sommelier certification. Not all schools offer this certification. 

  • L2:  Level Two Certification

    Knowledge of varietals and blind tasting are standard components to this level. 

  • L3:  Level Three Certification

    Major viticultural regions, terroir, and winemaking styles are the core components of level 3 certification. Exams may also include blind tastings and have restaurant service requirements.

  • L4: Level Four Certification

    Often known as an Advanced certificate, this is the equivalent of a sommelier degree. This is the level most professionals aspire to.  To achieve a Level Four certificate, expect to invest a minimum of two years.

  • L5: Level Five Certification

    The highest level of certification for sommeliers, and very difficult to acquire. Only the very best programs offer a Level Five certification. 


Wine Certification Agencies

The following are the major certification programs in the United States. Attending a wine school accredited by one of the following is strongly recommended if you are looking to work in the wine industry.

The Court of Master Sommeliers

  • Level 1 Introductory Sommelier Certificate  L1
  • Level 2 Certified Sommelier  L2-L3
  • Level 3 Advanced Sommelier L4
  • Level 4 Master Sommelier Diploma L5

Read Reviews of The Court of Master Sommeliers

Wine & Spirit Education Trust

  • Level 1 Award in Wines L1
  • Level 2 Award in Wines and Spirits L2
  • Level 3 Award in Wines and Spirits L3
  • Level 4 Diploma in Wines and Spirits L4

Read Reviews of Wine & Spirit Education Trust

The Institute of Masters of Wine

  • Master of Wine L5

National Wine School

  • Level 1&2 Foundation Certificate L1-L2
  • Level 3 Intermediate Certificate L3
  • Level 4 Baccalauréat Vigne et Vin L4
  • Level 5 Diplôme Oenotropae   L5

Read Reviews of the National Wine School

Society of Wine Educators

  • Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW)  L1
  • Certified Wine Educator (CWE) L2

North American Sommelier Association

  • Master Wine Taster L1
  • Master of Service L1
  • Sommelier Certification L2
  • Italian Wine Specialist  L2
  • American Wine Specialist L2
  • Master of Terroir L3
  • Master of Sangiovese L3

International Sommelier Guild

  • Wine Fundamentals I L1
  • Wine Fundamentals II L2
  • Sommelier Diploma L3

Culinary Institute of America

  • Wine and Beverage Certificate L1
  • Certified Wine Professional L2

International Wine Guild

  • Level I  L1
  • Level II L2
  • Level III L3
  • Certified Wine Judge L3
  • Certified Wine Instructor L3