How can I become a sommelier?

Ask Dr Vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.

Dear Dr. Vinny,

I’ve been working in the food and beverage industry for a while, but now want to become a certified sommelier. Where do I begin?

—Agnes, Wilmington, Del.

Dear Agnes,

Thanks for specifying that you want to be a certified sommelier. The job of sommelier doesn’t require any sort of degree—the title indicates a wine steward, a professional who can help you navigate a restaurant’s wine choices and provide wine service. Certification isn’t necessary.

However, to become a certified Master Sommelier is kind of like getting a master’s degree in wine. Fewer than 200 people worldwide have earned this title, which is pretty prestigious, and entitles them to put the initials “M.S.” after their name.

Where do you begin? I’d start by making sure you have some time and money set aside to allow you to do virtually nothing but think about wine for a few months or years. Some courses that can help you reach your goal are offered by the Court of Master Sommeliers, the American Sommelier Association, and the Sommelier Society of America.

The coursework would give you a good sense of what you’re in for, as well give you a chance to find a group of other like-minded people to commiserate and study with. And if you like the idea of tasting wine for homework, anyone from novice to expert is welcome to check out our online courses at Wine Spectator School.

—Dr. Vinny

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