For those of you that are interested in pursuing a career in the wine business, there are quite a few different paths that you may choose. From importing and distribution, to winemaking, to working in a restaurant as a Sommelier. All of these different career paths have their own set of positive and negative associations. The path that I chose, or maybe more accurately the path that chose me, was that of the Sommelier. There are multiple organizations that can set you down the right path for successful career in the wine industry, each are very different. The International Sommelier Guild was started in 1982 and focuses on in-class learning to sharpen your skills. WSET (The Wine & Spirit Education Trust) was established in 1969 and provides different levels of accreditation through a network of 3rd party education providers. This is open to beverage professionals and enthusiasts alike. Another is called the Court of Master Sommeliers, established in 1969 in the United Kingdom to “promote excellence in hotel and restaurant beverage service.” This is geared toward those that work in restaurants. Only 230 professionals worldwide have earned the title of Master Sommelier since the 1st Master Sommelier exam. This is what I have chosen to pursue.
In the Court, there are 4 levels. Introductory Sommelier, Certified Sommelier, Advanced Sommelier and Master Sommelier. I passed the Introductory exam in April of 2012, and the Certified exam in March of 2013. I was terrified of both examinations, but I studied hard and was able to pass both without a hiccup. The Advanced exam is an entirely different beast. Most commonly associated with a collegiate diploma in beverage and hospitality, it is broken down into 2 parts. The first part is a 3-day intensive course filled with lectures on wine regions, blind tastings with Master Sommeliers, and multiple opportunities to evaluate your level of preparedness with other beverage professionals pursuing the same goal. The 2nd part is a once a year exam that covers 3 different aspects of the Sommelier profession – Beverage service, blind tasting, and knowledge of beverage laws and history. This definitely does not simply stop at wine. Beer, spirits, sake, and appropriate food pairings are all fair game in an examination setting.
Having sat for the Advanced Sommelier Course last week, I can most certainly attest that this is no small venture. The Court of Master Sommeliers puts the impetus on the student. There is no one else that is going to push you to study when you’re tired or ask you to recite wine regions in the shower. You’re driving the car, so determining what knowledge is important and what things should be simply glanced over is all up to you. That is one of the things I love the most about this organization.
I must admit, it was actually very therapeutic to put these thoughts down on paper. I’m dealing with my own nervousness and self-doubt in pursuit of my goals, but I wish everyone that is currently pursuing any level of accreditation with the CMS good luck. Have the courage to pursue your passion and don’t be scared of failure. It will only make you stronger in the long run. If there is anything I can do to help you on your path, please don’t hesitate to reach out.