Sommelier programs teach students the complex processes involved in tasting wines and how to pair wines with food. Students will likely also learn about the wine-making process, weather and grapes and how these things affect the taste of a wine. Programs are made up of four progressive levels, including introductory, certified sommelier, advanced sommelier and master sommelier programs, with the latter being invitation only.
Aspiring sommeliers must not only possess extensive experience in the food and wine industry, but also must be skilled in tasting minor differences in a variety of wines. Wine critic programs usually do not have education prerequisites--in fact, most programs don't require a degree. Courses may take several weeks to several years to complete.
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Wine Critic Degree Programs
Students in certificate sommelier programs learn the complex process of tasting wines. They also learn about wine service and pairing food with wine, because the goal of any sommelier is to provide a high quality experience for a wine patron, usually in a restaurant.
Coursework in these programs feature a mixture of didactic learning and tasting; classes often take place at vineyards or include trips to vineyards as part of the program. All classes cover similar topics, but in increasing depth. Thus, classes correspond to certificate level:
- Introductory courses
- Certified sommelier courses
- Advanced sommelier courses
- Master sommelier courses
Popular Career Options
Sommeliers work almost exclusively in wine and food industries; however, a sommelier's skills are welcome in a number of different positions within those industries. Here are some examples of those positions:
- Restaurant manager
- Personal sommeliers
- Wine instructor
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that there were 305,000 food service manager jobs, just one of the positions available to sommeliers, in 2014. For the decade between 2014 and 2024, the BLS expects jobs for food service managers to grow at 5%. The median annual salary for food service managers is $48,690, as reported by the BLS in May 2015.
Formal certificate programs for aspiring wine critics, known as sommeliers, are available in four progressive levels that take weeks to years to complete. The final level in the program, the master sommelier program, is by invitation only.