How to Become a Sommelier

If you’re someone who loves wine, you’ve likely wished it could be your full-time job. 

You’re in luck! Becoming a wine expert or “wine steward” is a career anyone can pursue.

We will tell you exactly what this profession entails and how you can start your next venture into the wine world. 

How to become a sommelier

What is a Sommelier?

The word “sommelier” translates to “wine steward” and was first used in 1829 France. It derives from the Old French “sommier,” meaning “beast of burden.” This seems appropriate as becoming an expert in wine tasting, wine regions, and passing rigorous exams are no small tasks.

Let’s look at the various roles a sommelier can take on. 

What Does a Sommelier Do?

Once certified, a sommelier can work as the staff wine expert in a restaurant, in a wine shop or bar, or as a wine consultant. However, there are many other positions where a sommelier certification can benefit. Some chefs, for example, hold a sommelier certification to inform the best food and wine pairings. At the highest level, a sommelier can work for wine distributors or import companies, selecting the best wines for Michelin Star restaurants.

One of the most common positions for a sommelier includes working in restaurants, where they will manage wine storage and sales, create wine lists, provide wine service for guests, and educate the staff on wine. 

Now that we’ve discussed some of the roles of a sommelier, let’s explore a few possible salary ranges! 

How Much Do Sommeliers Make?

With a range of opportunities, a sommelier’s salary can be anywhere from $40,000-$100,000, depending on location, experience, and other factors. Six-figure ranges are usually reserved for master sommeliers. However, a sommelier certified at the standard level can make around $84,000 per year, depending on which city they are employed in. Though most will likely earn between $40,000 and $60,000 per year. 

Big city locations like New York and San Francisco often hold the highest sommelier salaries. 

After crunching some numbers, let’s look at how one would become a sommelier. 

How to Become a Wine Sommelier

The great thing about becoming a sommelier is that you can start right now! Here are a few tips to point you in the right direction. 

How to Become a Wine Sommelier

1.Study, Study, Study

There are thousands of books on wine and low-cost to free online courses like GuildSomm, which gives you all the information you need for the sommelier exam for $100 a year. To take the test and become certified, you must be well-versed in wine theory. This includes wine terminology, tasting notes, which region a wine comes from, fragrances, decanting, and more!

Good old-fashioned flashcards are the best way to do this, so get ready to study!

2. Get Tasting

You’ll also need to start practicing your tasting, so a trip to your local wine shop will be beneficial. You can even let the salesperson know you’re looking to increase your wine knowledge. They’ll likely be able to point you to the best case you can start practicing with. 

After a challenging course and exam, you’ll be subjected to blind tasting and service testing. This means you should be able to identify the wine by its taste alone and serve guests with proper sommelier etiquette.

When it comes to bottle service, you’ll need to know the proper temperature for serving sparkling and still wine and more when it comes to bottle service.

Pro Tip: join our wine club to test your taste knowledge with popular wines. You can also choose from our expertly curated Sommelier Choices!

3. Apply for a Restaurant Job

It might surprise you that many working sommeliers aren’t certified. That’s right. You don’t need to shell out a few thousand dollars to earn the title. If you want to save money while gaining experience on the side, getting a job in a restaurant could be the perfect path. 

You can start in any position and work your way up. This will take some time, but rest assured. You’ll thoroughly understand how a restaurant runs, including all things wine service. 

How to become a wine sommelier

4. Go to Wine School 

If you do not want to take a few years to work your way up in a restaurant and you have the cash to spare, attending wine school or getting a degree in winemaking at a university could be the way to go. 

The Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) and the National Wine School (NWS) offer online and in-person courses. You can also check out the Court of Master Sommeliers Americas. By the end of these levels, you will earn a pin for every phase you accomplish. 

  • L1 (Level One): Basic wine knowledge where you will earn your Introductory Sommelier Certification. This level is mainly theory-based and will require you to know all about wine taste and regions. 
  • L2 (Level Two): Foundation certificates in wines and spirits. You will build on your beginner wine knowledge with a blind taste test! You will also need to prove your tableside wine service skills. 
  • L3 (Level 3): Advanced Sommelier Exam, where you will prove your knowledge of more advanced wine information such as origins and terroir. More blind tastings to come!
  • L4 (Level 4): The Master Sommelier Exam is where things get tough, as only 10% of wine experts hold this certification. More people have been to space than there are master sommeliers. 

After passing the exams, you may be gunning to become a master sommelier—a truly tough feat. Let’s look at how one accomplishes this. 

How to Become a Master Sommelier

After you’ve found your ideal sommelier course, it’s time to delve further into the world of Wine Professionals. One of the most famous wine schools in the United States is the Court of Master Sommeliers Americas. 

To obtain the master sommelier level, one must pass the preliminary exams, certification exams, and advanced courses before moving on to the master exams and classes. The Master Sommelier exam is considered the most challenging test in the world, and many take years to prepare for it. 

If you’re looking to become a master sommelier, be prepared to undergo years of studying and experience. You’ll need to eat, breathe, and sleep all things wine, as less than 300 sommeliers are certified at the master level. 

How Much Do Sommeliers Make?

Ready to Become a Sommelier?

Now that you know what it takes to become a sommelier, are you ready to take the next step? You’ll need to learn about everything there is about red wine, sparkling wine, white wine, spirits, terroir, origins, and more!

Let Macy’s Wine Shop help your sommelier journey by visiting our blog. There you’ll find countless resources on wine varietals and information on some of the most famous wine regions in the world. 

Check out our wine shop for wine cases and popular varietals for tasting! 

Pick from our Sommelier’s Choice to see what our in-house experts are pouring.

If you’re looking to increase your wine education, Macy’s has your back!