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Insights - December 29, 2022

A Guide to Wine Education Programs

This is a guide describing possible paths one might take to get wine education and certification

Written by

Aleks Zecevic

As the year comes to an end, some might need ideas for their New Year’s resolution. It is never bad or too late to learn something new or improve your knowledge. For those interested in pursuing a career in the wine industry (or simply wanting to learn more about wine), there are several different wine education certification programs available. These programs range in focus and depth, from basic introductory courses to in-depth studies of specific regions or wine styles. This article explores the most influential ones.

Court of Master Sommeliers (CMS)

One of the most well-known wine education certification institutions is the Court of Master Sommeliers (CMS) program. A sommelier is a trained and knowledgeable wine professional who generally offers service and stewardship and service to customers of a restaurant, or other service industry venues.

The CMS program offers several levels of certification, starting with the Introductory Sommelier Course, which is designed for those with little or no previous knowledge of wine. This course covers the basics of wine, including grape varieties, wine regions, and the principles of wine tasting. Master Sommelier Diploma Examination.

The Certified Sommelier exam is the next level of certification, and is designed for those who have some basic knowledge of wine and are looking to expand their understanding. This exam covers more advanced topics, such as the principles of wine production, grape growing and winemaking, and the major wine regions and their styles of wine.

The CMS also offers the Advanced Sommelier Course and Exam, which is a more in-depth program designed for those with a good knowledge of wine who are looking to develop their expertise further. This course covers a wide range of topics, including the factors that influence the style, quality, and price of wines, the major grape varieties and their characteristics, and the wines and wine regions of the world.

The last, most demanding level is the Master Sommelier Diploma Examination. Becoming a Master Sommelier (MS) is one of the most reputable accolades in the wine industry. Its reward comes with a price, as this is considered one of the most difficult tests, no matter the profession. Hence, there are not even 300 people in the entire world holding the MS title.

Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET)

Another well-known wine education certification program is the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET). WSET’s education is delivered via accredited classroom and online providers around the world, and all of its examinations are conducted in person.

Their program offers several different levels of certification, starting with the WSET Level 1 Award in Wines, which is designed for those with little or no previous knowledge of wine. This course covers the basics of wine, including grape varieties, wine regions, and the principles of wine tasting.

The WSET Level 2 Award in Wines and Spirits is the next level of certification, and is designed for those who have some basic knowledge of wine and are looking to expand their understanding. This course covers more advanced topics, such as the principles of wine production, grape growing and winemaking, and the major wine regions and their styles of wine.

They also offer Level 3 Award in Wines, which is a more in-depth program designed for those with a good knowledge of wine who are looking to develop their expertise further. This course covers a wide range of topics, including the factors that influence the style, quality, and price of wines, the major grape varieties and their characteristics, and the wines and wine regions of the world.

Finally, there is Level 4 Diploma, which is an expert-level qualification covering all aspects of wine. Should you wish to become a Master of Wine, this course will be a great preparation for it. However, even within itself, Diploma will give you recognition as an authoritative wine specialist. 

Institute of Masters of Wine (IMW)

Next to the Master Sommelier certification, there is a Master of Wine (MW) certification, which carries practically the same wait. The exam is just as famously difficult and there are less than 400 MWs out there. 

As mentionedpreviously, the application to the IMW demands the WSET Diploma or top-level sommelier certification, although a bachelor or master degree in wine could also work in some instances. Requirements also include at least three years of current professional wine involvement, a recommendation from a Master of Wine.

Wine Scholar Guild

In addition to these more general wine education certification programs, there are also several programs that focus on specific regions or wine styles. A good example of that is the Wine Scholar Guild, which offers students of wine the opportunity to specialize in the wine country of their choice.

For example, the French Wine Scholar program offers in-depth study of the wines and wine regions of France, while the Italian Wine Specialist program covers the wines and wine regions of Italy. The organization also offers classes for Spanish specialization.

Other Programs

There are also several universities in the US, where you can get a degree in wine education. Maybe the most famous one is at the University of California, Davis. This is one of the most renowned agriculture schools and also happens to have one of the most renowned viticulture and enology programs in the world. Other famous universities include Cornell University, Oregon State University, Washington State University, and California State University, Fresno.

Overall, there are many different wine education certification programs available for those interested in pursuing a career in the wine industry or simply wanting to learn more about wine. These programs range in focus and depth, from basic introductory courses to in-depth studies of specific regions or wine styles. No matter what your level of knowledge or interest in wine, there is a wine education certification program that can help you achieve your goals.

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