National Wine School

National Wine School

145 Pine Haven Shores Shelburne Vermont USA

About

National Wine School

The National Wine School is a professional certification agency that develops testing protocols for the wine trade, including sommeliers.

History of NWS

National Wine School (NWS) was founded in 2007. Initially based in Philadelphia, it operated under the American Wine Foundation until 2010, when the agency relocated to Los Angeles. NWS was established as a not-for-profit credentialing agency for the wine trade. Its primary goal is to develop transparent certification protocols and standards that comply with state and federal laws. 

The accreditation body started with a single school, the Wine School of Philadelphia (WSoP), but pivoted away from the adult education sector and into higher education in 2012. In 2020, NWS started offering some of its sommelier certification programs directly to the public. The National Wine School moved its headquarters to Vermont in 2022.

National Wine School Accreditation

While that sounds dry, it should be. The National Wine School was developed to deal with the structural deficits inherent in the British-owned certification agencies: the Court of Master Sommeliers, and the Wine & Spirit Education Trust. There are significant liabilities with offering professional certification in the United States, and the founders of NWS felt the British firms did not fully address US standards. 

  1. ACAP Accreditation
  2. ANSI Compliance
  3. Sherman Act Compliance
  4. ADA Compliance

The only legal cover WSET and CMS have is their classification as trade agencies by the IRS. The Federal government nor any state recognizes their credentials, nor do the states they are located. The National Wine School is fully compliant in the state they are located in (Vermont) and require their affiliate schools to be regionally accredited colleges and universities. There are some exceptions to this, but only for wine schools that are well-vetted and operating legally.

Again, this is boring stuff, but it goes a long way to make everyone’s sommelier certifications future-proof. The agency’s primary goal is to bring transparency and legitimacy to sommelier certification. There are eight particular requirements for professional certification in the United States.

  1. Delivers an assessment based on knowledge of the wine industry
  2. Independent from training courses and course providers
  3. Grants a time-limited sommelier credential
  4. Annual Recertification Exams
  5. Anyone who meets the assessment standards is certified
  6. Standards and criteria for sommelier certifications are applied reasonably
  7. Guarantees of procedural due process
  8. Published policies and guidelines for sommelier certification.

Vermont Trade School

arabian man sommelier appreciating drink in lux hotel

Online Sommelier Courses

The school has released three of its programs directly to professionals and consumers. These include the L1, L2, and L3 programs. The programs were developed during the pandemic by two of the school’s board of directors, Keith Wallace and Alana Zerbe. The programs are innovative and engaging, which is remarkable for an online wine program. Previously, the biggest downfall of their programs was only being available within college curriculums, with only a few exceptions.

Pros and Cons

Is NWS a good choice for you? It depends on what you are looking for. WSET and CMS are sexier brands with plenty of cachets. They’ve earned their spot as media darlings with big-ticket PR firms. Banking on the popularity of sommeliers is just good business, and we don’t fault them for being shrewd. But, on the other hand, the National Wine School may not be for you if you are all about the bling. 

The NWS is a good option if you want a rock-solid professional wine trade certification. While NWS is exceptional in how it issues sommelier certificates, it is still small. We deducted points for its limited scope (only about 7% of sommeliers nationally are certified via the NWS). We expect that will change over time.

However, the program is only offered at schools with state or regional accreditation. Since most wine schools do not have that type of accreditation, the program is out of reach for most people, except for online or in Philadelphia. The reviews of students who have taken the programs at the college level are very positive.

A tough class on wine, well suited to someone looking to challenge themselves like a master sommelier. The material is supplied by the national wine school, as are the quizzes. Here’s a tip: if you do well on the weekly quizzes, you’ll do fine on the final.

HSPM148, San Jose State University

A force of nature in the classroom. If you think you understand wine, your going to find out very quickly that you are at the ground floor, knowledge-wise. This is a National Wine School program, and really impressive.

WINE101, New England Culinary Institute
NWS Sommelier Certificate
NWS Sommelier Certificate

What are the best wine qualifications?

The three top wine qualifications are the Wine & Spirit Education Trust, the National Wine School, and the Cour of Master Sommeliers.

What forms of payment are accepted at National Wine School?

The National Wine School accepts Paypal, Affirm, and most Credit Cards.

How is National Wine School rated?

The National Wine School is one of the top-rated sommelier accreditation agencies in the United States. They also offer direct-to-student online wine courses.

SOMM Score
National Wine School

Name: National Wine School

Description: The National Wine School is the only certification body that offers nationally compliant accreditation for sommeliers. It is less well known than WSET or CMS in the restaurant trade. However, it has greater acceptance at the college and university level.

4.4
  • Accreditation
    (4.5)
  • Sommelier Certification
    (4.5)
  • Wine Trade Certification
    (3.5)
  • Quality of Instruction
    (5)
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User Review
4.57 (7 votes)
National Wine School