If you are reading this article, the odds are high that you are already a wine enthusiast. If you aren’t firstly we would like to welcome you to our site and we truly hope that you will learn more about this wonderful drink and find a few vintages that will suit your tastes and broaden your wine drinking horizons.
However, for those of you who already know what you like, there is a small selection of enthusiasts who want to take things a little bit further. Knowing the stories and qualities of good wines is one thing, but to be a master? That takes a sommelier.
A sommelier is somebody who has been specially trained in the art of wine. They are true masters of the craft when it comes to understanding the history of the wines they drink, the stories of the people behind them, and how to identify each individual quality that combines into the glorious whole that is a bottle of wine.
Of course, not everybody can be a sommelier. In fact, there is a special certification that has been designed solely to hone the skills of those who want to learn more so they can achieve recognition as true masters.
This brings us to the subject of this article. What do you need to do in order to become a sommelier? Here we will offer just a few tips that will not only help you get on the right track, but will also ensure you stay the course until you finally have your hands on that coveted certificate.
Learn Before the Course
If you try to go into a sommelier course having never even tried to understand anything about the wines you drink then you are going to find yourself in a major uphill battle to earn your certification. Try to develop a base of knowledge before you start a formal course.
This should include learning as much as you can about the industry in general and a number of individual producers. You will need great passion for wine to find success as a sommelier, so this learning experience should not be a chore for you. Additionally, you need to understand the basics of how to drink wine correctly and how to be able to identify notes through smelling aromas and tasting.
Don’t feel that you have to go it alone either. Speaking to somebody who understands wine better than you do will help you gather an understanding of what you should be looking for and how you can go about finding it in the future. As a side-note, take notes while you are tasting so you can figure out both the individual facets of the wines you drink and how all of those dots connect to create the whole.
Find a Good Course
There are quite a few institutions out there offering sommelier courses, so your aim should be to find one that has good accreditation and a strong track record. For the most part, this shouldn’t be an issue, as sommelier courses are generally taught by people who have already undergone the rigorous training required to become a sommelier, thus they are conducted with the level of passion and knowledge that would be expected.
However, that should still not prevent you from doing a little bit of research prior to starting the course. Find out what other people say about it in terms of structure and quality, so you can determine whether or not it suits your learning styles. Steer clear of any courses that are not overseen by master sommeliers, as these generally will not be capable of actually teaching you the skills required to attain the qualification yourself.
The Three Components
Sommeliers must develop three core skills that set them apart from other wine enthusiasts. As such, your course should really cover all of the following.
Tasting. The obvious aspect of being a sommelier is being able to taste wine and identify the correct notes and understand its quality. You should be able to connect what you taste with the wine’s origin and also understand how all of the individual notes have been pulled together to achieve balance in the wine.
Theory. This is where your knowledge of the industry and its key players will become important. Your understanding should extend to the various wine regions, ideally all over the world, and the individual characteristics each of those regions bring to their wines. You should gain knowledge about different types of grapes and show nothing but respect for the history of the wine industry.
Service. An often underestimated aspect of sommelier training is the service component. After all, your skills are not being honed for nothing. Service incorporates being able to speak about what makes individual wines so special, thus helping others make strong choices. You should be able to sell and serve wines flawlessly based on your own knowledge and, in doing so, teach others along the way too.
The Tasting Grid
It is worth coming back to the concept of tasting, as this will be key to any sort of success you have as a sommelier. The history and service skills can be learned over time, but it takes real skill to be able to taste a wine and identify all of its key qualities to the point where you feel confident acting as an authority for others on the subject.
Happily, there is help available so you don’t have to develop the skills completely independently. The Court of Master Sommeliers offers a ton of information, including a tasting grid that essentially acts as a checklist for the various things you should be able to identify in a wine.
As for tasting itself, it can also often be difficult to get practice, especially if you don’t have a large budget available to you. To get around this, keep an eye out for special tasting events to attend. You may also consider gathering a group of friends together so you can all chip in for more expensive wines, giving you plenty of opportunity to broaden your palate as you study.