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Sommelier

Becoming a sommelier can take years of practice, depending on how far you’re wanting to take your career. Sommeliers know more than the color of the wine and how to open a bottle without leaving pieces of cork floating around inside. Sommeliers worth their expensive bottles of French Bordeaux can tell you where the wine was made, the year, and the notes, all with a blindfold on. If you’re passionate about wine, and want to turn your love into a career, then you might want to think about becoming a sommelier.

What A Sommelier Does

As a sommelier, you’ll be expected to be the wine expert. You’ll help transform a dining experience from average to heavenly with your expertise on pairing the proper wines with meals. Working as a sommelier will lead you to finding a job within the restaurant and travel industry. You may work on a cruise ship, in a casino, at a resort, in a restaurant or bar. Your customers will vary, from the highest level of wine snobs to those who are seeking advice.

Some of your responsibilities may include:

  • Educating others about different wines
  • Training staff on wines
  • Contributing articles to publications
  • Hosting wine tours
  • Managing the wine selection where you work
  • Maintaining wine inventory
  • Knowing how to pair the wines with foods being served
  • Attending wine tastings and wine conferences
  • Being up to date on current wine trends

You must have experience with both food and wine, and be able to flawlessly pair the two. Your people skills will come into play quite often, because you are part salesperson and part mind interpreter, sizing up your customers’ words and selling them based on your knowledge of wines.

How To Become A Sommelier

There is no “official” schooling process to become a sommelier. However, you can’t just walk into a place and apply for the job if you haven’t learned some of the necessary skills.

  • First, learn everything you possibly can about wine, grapes, regions, years, and more.
  • Train your palate to differentiate and to identify types of wines.
  • Start out as a server in the restaurant industry.
  • Get a job in a restaurant or bar where wine is served so you can start putting your learning to use, as well as gaining more knowledge from those who know more than you.
  • Know the finer points of serving and pouring wines.
  • Get a sommelier certification. It’s not a must, it’s a should. Having a certification will give you the edge over any competition.
  • There are massive amounts of wine courses you can take. Some are free, while others can cost upwards of $1,000. Do your research, and ask other sommeliers where they got their certifications. Four certification tests are available through the Court of Master Sommeliers where you can earn the Master Sommelier designation. But, a Google search will pull up many different ones. Whichever choice you go with, a test will need to be completed to earn the certification allowing yourself to be called sommelier.
  • Join sommelier networks.
  • Take “wine trips” to immerse yourself in the food and wine culture of different regions.

At the end of the day, your job is to transform the visit to the restaurant to an experience your customer isn’t likely to forget anytime soon.

Find a sommelier program near you.

Salary Of A Sommelier

In the United States, the salary range for sommeliers is $43,000-$76,000. Of course, it depends on factors such as where you work, what state you're in, how many certifications you have, and your level of experience. Master sommeliers can earn well over $150,000, which is the highest level of sommelier achievement. Sommeliers with an advanced certificate can earn $78,000+, while the average salary for a sommelier without any additional certifications is $54,000.

For some interesting reading: 4 Master Sommeliers Walk Into A Bar