How to become a wine sommelier

Because the wine industry is both an art and a science, there are a number of ways how students can enter the field as a sommelier. However, first and foremost, students are required to be of the US legal drinking age in order to serve alcohol.
For students who are more interested in the science of wine making, they can enroll in an undergraduate degree program focused on wine production and vineyard management at a local university. For students who are interested in honing in on the art of perfecting the wine experience, they can consider taking a diploma program focused on hospitality management at a junior college where sommelier studies is part of the curriculum. Alternatively, students can also take part time courses with international wine institutes such as the International Sommelier Guild or the Wine and Spirits Education Trust which is offered at culinary institutes and local colleges. For students choosing the third option, most of these candidates have an undergraduate degree in business and are working in a wine distributor, retailer or broker and are taking courses to further their knowledge of the industry.
Regardless of which option you choose, here are some courses that you may be expected to take to further your training and skills as a sommelier:
• Basics of wine production: Students will learn about the different types of grapes used in common wine varietals and different methods of production around the world. They’ll also learn how the terroir, production methods, enhancements can impact the tasting notes of the final product. They’ll also learn about basic vineyard and production management principles for both table, sparkling and fortified wines.
• Wine laws of the old world: Europe consists of some of the oldest wine producing regions in the world and the products are highly sought after by consumers domestically and internationally. In order to product the integrity of quality of these products, wine laws have been created by various European agricultural agencies and wine producers are legally required to comply with these regulations. Students will learn how these laws affect the naming, labeling, grading, production and export of wines from Europe.
• Principles of wine tasting: Students will learn how to properly taste and assess the type and quality of wines. Not only will they be training their senses through tasting trials, but they will be required to document their assessments in order to make the proper recommendation on the shelf life and price point of various products as well as how to distinguish faulty wines.
• Wine and food pairing: These courses exemplifies the art of wine and will require some creativity from students in recommending the perfect wine to customers. Students will learn about the basic principles of wine pairing based on the characteristics of the ingredients as well as the sauces and garnish used in each meal. They will also understand how poor tasting recommendations can affect a person’s sensory experience.
• Safety in wine handling and consumption: Sommeliers as well as other hospitality professionals have the great responsibility of ensuring their customers are handling alcohol in a way that does not jeopardize their safety as well as that of people around them. Students will learn about limits of wine consumption as well as safety in wine handling to ensure that they do not run into issues with industry and legal regulations.
A career as a sommelier is one which requires lifelong learning, especially since there are so many wine products and producers in the market and the regulations are always changing. For more information on course and training requirements for a sommelier, please contact your high school counsellor.

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