How to Become a Sommelier

How to Become a Sommelier

Want to become a sommelier but need more advice on how to do it? At San Francisco Wine School, we give your the true facts about the journey to becoming a sommelier. This blog isn't about trying to provide sommelier classes or training for sommeliers, it simply contains our expert industry advice.

What is a Sommelier?

Before embarking on this path, it’s first important to answer the question – what is a sommelier? This can be a source of much confusion among both consumers and industry professionals alike. The term sommelier refers to a wine waiter or steward; a trained and knowledgeable professional who provides assistance with wine selection and wine service, usually but not always in a restaurant setting. Just because someone has passed a sommelier exam and holds a sommelier certification does not make them a sommelier. Likewise, a wine waiter who does not hold a sommelier certification can still call themself a sommelier. San Francisco Wine School's founder, David Glancy holds a Master Sommelier diploma from the Court of Master Sommeliers and created the world-renowned Certified Sommelier Program at the Professional Culinary Institute (now known as ICC), so he understands this topic better than most.

A sommelier's role includes knowledge and experience and there is no ‘one way’ to gain the skills needed to be a competent and successful sommelier. There are no legal requirements for anyone to become credentialed to work as, or call themselves, a sommelier. However, many sommeliers and other individuals do decide to challenge themselves, demonstrate their knowledge and add initials to their resume by taking sommelier educational programs and exams.

Many people are confused by what we call wine credential blur. There are many organizations that offer wine education and certifications today. This is further muddled by competing and sometimes misleading claims about those wine programs. I am attempting to leave my opinions out and present factual details about various sommelier groups below. Browse our range of sommelier related courses and workshops here.

Court of Master Sommeliers UK

  • http://www.courtofmastersommeliers.org/
  • 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
  • http://www.mastersommeliers.org/
  • 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
  • http://www.guildsomm.com/
  • 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
  • https://sommeliersocietyofamerica.org/
  • Founded 1954
  • only taught in New York City
  • no international affiliation
  • 10 instructors & only 3 have restaurant experience in bio
  • Certificate course & others
American Sommelier Association
  • https://www.americansommelier.com/
  • 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
  • http://www.ussommelier.com/
  • 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
  • http://www.nasommelier.com/
  • 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
  • http://www.worldwidesommelier.com/
  • 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
  • https://www.aisitalia.it/en/
  • Founded 1965 & created WSA 1973
  • 33,000 members in Italy
  • no instructors are listed & bios not provided for board of directors
International Sommelier Guild
  • https://www.internationalsommelier.com/
  • 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
  • http://www.internationalwineguild.com
  • 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

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?There are many other wine credentials but hopefully this sheds some light on the sommelier options.  Here are some other blogs you may find interesting:
Here are programs that help our students prepare for sommelier exams and help Understanding Our Programs.  Email help@sfwineschool.com for a personalized guidance session.  See our upcoming full program and single course schedule. Private, customized corporate training is also available. Sign up for our weekly blogs or check out our sommelier based courses



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