How to Become a Sommelier

Many people are confused by what I call wine credential blur. This is further muddled by competing and sometimes misleading claims. There are no legal requirements for anyone to become credentialed to work as, or call themselves, a sommelier. However, many individuals decide to challenge themselves, demonstrate their knowledge and add initials to their resume. I am attempting to leave my opinions out and present factual details about various sommelier groups.

Court of Master Sommeliers UK

  • Founded 1977
  • Courses taught worldwide in conjunction with Court of Master Sommeliers Americas
  • Instructors not listed but all are Master Sommeliers
  • Introductory, Certified, Advanced & Master Sommelier diplomas

Court of Master Sommeliers Americas

  • American Chapter founded 1986
  • Courses taught worldwide in conjunction with Court of Master Sommeliers UK
  • Instructors not listed but all are Master Sommeliers
  • Introductory, Certified, Advanced & Master Sommelier diplomas

Guild of Sommeliers

  • Founded 2003
  • Events held throughout the United States
  • Affiliated with the Guild of Sommeliers UK and Court of Master Sommeliers UK & Americas but does not provide formal classes or exams. It is an educational membership society.
  • Created & runs Top Somm competition

Sommelier Society of America

American Sommelier Association

  • Founded 1998
  • only taught in New York City
  • no international affiliation
  • 27 instructors including 1 MS & several other respected sommeliers
  • Created & run Best Sommelier in America Competition (not to be confused w/ Top Somm which is run by the Guild of Sommeliers or Jeune Sommelier which is run by the Chaine des Rotisseurs)
  • Foundation course & others

US Sommelier Association

  • Founded 1998
  • only taught in Miami, San Francisco, Serbia & Croatia
  • no international affiliation
  • 10 instructors & only 4 have restaurant experience in bio
  • Certificate, Immersion, Advanced & National Certificate courses

North American Sommelier Association

  • Founded 2010
  • only taught in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston & New York City
  • affiliate of World Sommelier Association which was created by Italian Sommelier Association to teach Italian wines around the world
  • NASO is only WSA chapter to teach anything beyond Italian wines
  • 6 instructors and bios only available for 2 of them
  • Certified Sommelier & Italian Wine Specialist courses

Worldwide Sommelier Association

  • Founded 1973
  • Created Best World Sommelier WSA competition but no mention of it since 2010
  • Affiliate chapters in North America, Asia & throughout Europe
  • NASO is only chapter teaching beyond Italian wines

Italian Sommelier Association

International Sommelier Guild

  • Founded 1984
  • Courses taught throughout USA, Canada & China
  • not affiliated with any other organizations
  • instructors are not listed nor are their backgrounds or credentials
  • Fundamentals I & II, Sommelier Diploma & Teacher Education courses

International Wine Guild

  • Founded 1998
  • Headquartered in Denver with classes also in Arizona, Texas, Virginia & Washington
  • No international affiliation
  • 8 instructors & only 2 have restaurant experience in bio
  • Level I, II, III & other courses

Here are two other interesting links related to the confusion about credentials.

Alma Scuola Cucina trademark dispute with Court of Master Sommeliers -

1 of 3 people in the world to hold both MS & MW states differences -

There are many other wine credentials but hopefully this sheds some light on the sommelier options.

Tell everyone what you think of any of these organizations or others you have studied or tested with. Have you found any of them deliberately misleading or misrepresenting?

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