What is a Sommelier?
A Sommelier (Soh-mell-yay) is the French term for cellarmaster or wine steward. As a wine steward, you would be responsible for managing a resturant, hotel, or cellar’s beverage department. A sommelier is expected to know everything about tasting, theory, practical and dining room application. The sommelier’s knowledge also encompasses spirits, beers, cigars as well as global wine knowledge. As a sommelier, you are the source of information for anything and everything regarding beverages. In North America, there are currently 79 Master Sommeliers, of which 13 are women. There are only 124 Master Sommeliers world wide. So how do you become one?
Introductory Sommelier Course
A sommelier candidate must pass four levels of examinations defined by the Court of Master Sommeliers. The first level is the Introductory Sommelier Course. Since the course is only a two day course, students are expected to come in with a solid foundation of general beverage knwoledge. Students usually come from resturant, beverage wholesale, or beverage retail backgrounds. The course covers a tour of all the major wine growing regions of the world, instruction on spirits, and beer and cigar production. After an intensive two day course, you are given a written exam. This exam is multiple choice, and the pass rate is about 95%.
Should you pass the first step, your next step is the one day Certified Exam. There is no course or lecture that preceeds this exam. The exam is in three parts: the written exam, the blind tasting exam, and the service exam. The 30 minute written exam covers fundamental questions on beer, wine, or spirits. The blind tasting exam requires the candidate to taste two wines and correctly identify the wine type, the grape used, aspects of the aroma, the specific type of oak used, the country of origin, and even the vintage within a few years range. The service exam tests the candidate on one aspect of service: Standard Wine Service, Champagne Service or Decanting Service.
Advanced Sommelier Course & Exam
The Advanced Course is the next step. This exam is a bit simpler in scope. You are expected to know everything. From the Court of Master Sommelier’s web site, if you can “recite from memory facts such as the Grands Crus of the Cote de Nuits, the satellites of St. Emilion, the districts of Chianti, the AVAs of Sonoma County, or the Bereiche of the Rheinhessen” you might be qualified for the exam. To even attempt this exam, you must pass the first two steps and have a minimum of five years of experience in the industry. There is a three day course that preceeds the exam. In this exam, the candidate must blind taste 6 wines. Even though the requirement for passing is only 60% in each section, only 25% of the people who attempt this exam pass it.
Master Sommelier Diploma Exam
The final step of this cirriculum is the $800 Master Sommelier Diploma Exam. This exam covers everything from beverage service, 6 more blind wine tastings, resturant service and salesmanship, cigar knowledge, beer knowledge, spirit knowledge, international wine laws for various countries… in short everything, again. This exam requires a 70% grade in each section. Of the people who attempt this exam, only 10% pass.
After all of the courses, exams, and industry experience you are finally awarded the title “Master Sommelier”. Piece of cake? Good luck!
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