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.
- Level 1 Introductory Sommelier Certificate L1
- Level 2 Certified Sommelier L2-L3
- Level 3 Advanced Sommelier L4
- Level 4 Master Sommelier Diploma L5
- 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
The Institute of Masters of Wine
- Master of Wine L5
- Level 1&2 Foundation Certificate L1-L2
- Level 3 Intermediate Certificate L3
- Level 4 Baccalauréat Vigne et Vin L4
- Level 5 Diplôme Oenotropae L5
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