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Sommeliers are wine experts who provide services to clients at wineries, restaurants and other establishments. These professionals receive certifications in their craft via the Court of Master Sommelier's Course, recognized by leading institutions as the industry standard. To earn certification, you must have extensive knowledge of wine as well as familiarity with beer, cocktails, food and other subjects.
Introductory Sommelier Course
The two-day introductory course to become a Master sommelier consists of various tastings, service procedures and education on a variety of alcoholic beverages. Prospective sommeliers take an exam at the end of the second day, consisting of 70 multiple choice questions with a written component on theory and wine history. There is no formal course given prior to this two-day period, so each student needs to leverage her own experience in the service industry as well as seek the appropriate education and training.
Only after passing the certified sommelier course can someone call himself a sommelier. This single-day course consists of blind tasting two wines and instruction on theory and service procedures. Students need to be able to clearly distinguish between the two wines and fill out a chart breaking down the traits of the two during the blind tasting exam. Students then go on to display knowledge of various wines, wine grapes and their origins over a 30-minute test. Certification is completed after successfully passing another exam over wine and champagne service and decanting. A major portion of this test includes a demonstrable ability to match certain foods with various wines and spirits.
Advanced Sommelier Course
For experienced servers, the Advanced Sommelier Course takes five additional days to complete. The first three are extensive seminars in additional wine tastings and instruction. The course is wrapped up via a two-day examination, covering tastings, theory and service skills. This course is far more advanced than the Certified Sommelier course, but is a required step to achieve Master status.
Master Sommelier Diploma
This all-encompassing "final exam" might take an experienced sommelier up to three years to complete -- a testament to the challenging nature of the exam. Like other phases of certification, this one consists of three core parts in tasting, service and theory. However, added to this are components of sales ability, advanced etiquette and a fine-tuned ability to define certain wines through smell and taste. Master sommeliers must be able to identify which regions of the world grapes are sourced from for wine manufacture. They must also be able to identify and speak knowledgeably about issues such as wine storage and manufacturing techniques. Unlike other testing phases, which require only 60 percent accuracy for completion, Master-level testing requires a minimum score of 75 percent to earn the coveted diploma.
David Lipscomb is a professional writer and public relations practitioner. Lipscomb brings more than a decade of experience in the consumer electronics and advertising industries. Lipscomb holds a degree in public relations from Webster University.