For those who love wine and consider themselves to be oenophiles, the idea of a career as a wine steward or a sommelier may sound like an exciting and fruitful proposition. However, the desire to pursue a career in this field may leave a potential future sommelier puzzled as to where to start. Studying to be a wine steward is a bit of an esoteric field of education, and most colleges do not simply offer a major in the study of wine. Regardless, being a wine steward or a sommelier is a complex job which requires education and knowledge. This knowledge, however, is not typically obtained in the fashion of a basic college degree.
For someone who is considering a career as a wine steward or sommelier, it is important to be aware of exactly what such a job entails. A wine steward does not simply know about and talk about wine, they must be able to discuss at length the way that different wines are made. They must be knowledgeable about the bouquet of wines, their notes, their market value and how they are rated by other oenophiles. They should know how a wine should be poured, how it should be served and how long it should breathe. They should also be well versed in how to pair a wine with a cheese course, an entree or a dessert. A fine sommelier will often be expected to pass their knowledge on to other staff members in a hospitality venue who are less educated on the subject of wine than they are. For this purpose and for the purpose of serving wine courteously, a sommelier must be able to teach the nature of wine without being haughty, presumptuous or curt.
While there is no technical requirement for becoming a sommelier or wine steward, many establishments in the field of hospitality seek out and value a sommelier who has pursued formal education in their field. One popular organization that an aspiring sommelier may seek out is the International Sommelier Guild, which has a two course offering in the fundamentals of wine. Completing these courses results in a sommelier diploma. The sommelier diploma program entails the completion of classes which have eight hour sessions once a week for half a year. Finishing the program requires a final examination featuring essay questions, making it a serious pursuit for an aspiring sommelier. Classes are featured worldwide.
Both the Wine and Spirit Education Trust and the Culinary Institute of America also offer professional courses and certifications for aspiring wine stewards and sommeliers. The Education Trust is based in London and features worldwide courses through program providers. In addition, the Education Trust also offers a diploma program. The Culinary Institute of America provides its certification program and studies in Napa Valley, California at its Greystone Campus. Finally, the Court of Master Sommeliers offers a highly competitive, detailed and difficult program involving four levels of classwork.
The programs mentioned here offer teachings related to the culture of wine, the nature of grapes, the ability to effectively taste wine and the geography, history and climate that goes into the making of different wines. Admission and completion to any of the aforementioned programs is a massive asset to any aspiring wine steward or sommelier. The average salary for a sommelier is approximately $37,691 annually, with elite master sommeliers having the potential to qualify for a much higher income thanks to employment within prestigious establishments.
Check out our list of Wine Steward / Sommelier Schools