Do you spend vacations visiting wineries? Weekends buying wine for your growing collection? Then pursue your goal of becoming a sommelier!
A career as a wine connoisseur has a great deal of appeal. You have seen the Somm movies; candidates determine a wine’s ingredients, origin, and approximate alcohol content from a sip of the wine. Even if you never work a day in your life, make it your goal to earn your sommelier credentials.
All skills demand mastering, and this is no different. Becoming a sommelier takes a lot of direct interaction and training. Be prepared to read and study. You will need to perform wine services and identify several wines in a blind taste test to earn your certification. Becoming a sommelier is not a piece of cake, but when is anything worth achieving easy?
Table of contents
Become a Sommelier the Hard Way
You don’t need formal education or certification to become a restaurant sommelier. However, to take this route takes a long time and is far from guaranteed. First, you will need to get hired as a waiter at a fine dining restaurant. Then, you will have to work your way up to become a head waiter, which may take years. Expect to change jobs a few times before you get to that level. You’ll also have to study wine and keep in contact with the restaurant’s management. You want to be the person called up when the sommelier position opens up.
Become a Sommelier the Certified Way
A more straightforward method is acquiring the needed training at a wine school. It will give you the edge against other sommelier candidates, at the very least. When deciding on a training course to enroll in, you should choose a wine school that offers sommelier certification (not all wine schools do!) If you are not located near one of the top wine schools, you should consider an online wine school, as several now offer sommelier certification.
The following topics characterize a traditional sommelier course:
- The history of wine depending on the time, era, and place.
- Marketing and branding of wine.
- A world view of the wine industry in general.
- Deductive tasting (the most important skill of all!).
Train Your Palate
To become a sommelier, you must train your palate. The best wine schools will help you develop your ability to taste wines using the deductive method. Two of the top schools in America for deductive tasting are the Napa Valley Wine Academy and the Wine School of Philadelphia. If you have had a hard time choosing between the two, remember that one is in California and the other is in Pennsylvania. We typically recommend seeking out sunshine and wineries, but that’s just us.
You will need first-hand experience beyond the classroom and textbook. An accurate palate allows you to identify wines by their sense of taste or smell. With a lot of practical training, you will differentiate the textures and flavors of wines such as vanilla and clove. Take as many notes as possible when tasting wine, especially in cases where you observe distinct flavors.
To detect notable texture, you need to swish the wine in your mouth when you sip it. It would be best to learn the differences between lush and creamy or the difference between a light or crisp taste with all diligence. You should note smooth, heavy, or tannic sensations; when you swallow, you should observe the aftertaste: is it soft or aggressive? Does it make you thirst for more?
Learn Key Wine Regions
Starting with the top four regions globally, namely France, Italy, Spain, and the US and the cities where their wine is brewed, is an excellent place to start your wine learning journey. Although you will need to explore more regions as you grow.
Familiarizing yourself with the following features is essential:
- The specific location of the top distilleries such as country, state, and district.
- The kind of wine each region produces.
- Is there an ingredient unique to a region?
- Any special brewing techniques applied.
- The economic impact of the wine production business on their various regions.
Additionally, it would help if you took trips to these regions. Many winemakers provide guided tours and allow interactions with their staff. At the very least, take a trip to a local bookstore to learn as much as you can about the top wine regions in the world.
Acquire General Wine Knowledge
Besides your work experience and wine certification, you need more skills. You can address these by earning your Advanced Sommelier certification, but you can learn much of this information at home. Beyond wine tasting, here is some other helpful knowledge you will need to be considered a wine expert:
- How to pair wine with precition
- Basic wine chemistry
- Proper wine storage and service.
- The winemaking process
- First-hand knowledge of rare and collectible wines.
You will need to develop a systematic way of always sharpening your palate: take notes, research wine producers, and attend wine tastings. If you are near a reputable wine school, you should take as many classes through them as possible. Guided tastings by a respected wine professional are the best way to gain knowledge.
Suppose you are a staff member at a restaurant. In that case, you get the opportunity of special invites to an industry tasting event where you can sample the latest wines and chat with importers and winemakers. Attending these events with a mentor and a good notebook is beneficial. Remember that these wine tastings are promotional: don’t take what you hear as the gospel truth: 90% of it will be marketing mumbo-jumbo.
Learn to Properly Pour and Serve Wine
What defines your status as a sommelier is far beyond the wealth of knowledge you have acquired on wines. You need the skills of being an expert wine server. The school will judge you on your ability to uncork and serve bottles of wine gracefully. The service method differs around the world as etiquette is unique from region to region. Reading on etiquettes practiced in several areas is sure to refine your skill.
Build Your Experience
Did you know there are two types of sommeliers that work in restaurants and ones that don’t? It used to be that sommeliers only worked in restaurants, but that is no longer true. The entire wine trade uses these certifications for all their staffing needs.
Someone seeking a restaurant sommelier career needs a specific path and certification: you need restaurant experience. You can pursue an apprenticeship in any industry that serves wine, like a bar, restaurant, hotel, and catering services. However, if you have experienced success in other career paths, you might find this path a bit disappointing.
Like many careers, it may take patience to build up your credentials. The hospitality industry is the ideal training environment for a sommelier as you can constantly interact with wine. Your time in the industry will help you decide if this is indeed an industry you will love to pursue a career in. The art of speaking to people about wine in a friendly and natural manner is an essential sommelier skill.
Keep in mind that even if working in restaurants is not your career goal, a sommelier certification will take you far.
Apply for Jobs
Once you have the credentials and the work experience, it’s time to start looking for the perfect job. Don’t just seek our restaurants. Most of the best jobs in the wine trade are in wine production, importing, and distribution. Restaurant sommeliers may get all the glory, but those who work in other sections of the wine trade are often paid better and get far better perks. We recommend the site Wine Jobs USA.
Find a Good Place to Work
How do you decide where to work and if it fits you? If you have found a job in the business, outlined below are some questions to help you decide:
- Is there staff wine training and tasting?
- Will you be reimbursed or paid for intro wine exams?
- Is there a competition and benefits for wine sale increase?
- Do they constantly change their inventory?
- Is there any advancement opportunity?
A Sommelier as a Profession
Do you have a deep interest in the subject of wine? If so, being a sommelier is a good possibility. This profession is gratifying if you can put in the required dedication to learning as much as you can at quick paces. It is a highly competitive field, and as such, there is no room for slacking either in knowledge acquired, or experience gained.
Venturing into the world of being a sommelier should never be done based on earning a fortune as it is more about serving people and a love for wine. Therefore, it is not so lucrative as it is more about a lifestyle and the pleasure it affords, like tasting great wines, meeting winemakers, and sharing your love of wine with others.
It takes a lot of patience and hard work to set a scene perfect for food and wine attractively. Any time you decide that being a sommelier is not yielding enough for you financially, you can switch to a more lucrative sector of the wine industry.
- Sommelier Certification
- Wine Trade Certification
- Quality of Instruction