If you are looking to advance your wine knowledge or are interested in influencing or teaching others about wine, there a few directions you can go:
• Society of Wine Educators – Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW), Certified Wine Educator (CWE), Certified Specialist of Spirits (CSS), and Hospitality/Beverage Specialist Certificate (HBSC)
• Institute of Masters of Wine – Masters of Wine (MW)
• The Court of Master Sommeliers - Master Sommelier
The Society of Wine Educators was formed in 1974 to advance wine education through professional development and certification. The society offers many opportunities for members to continue advancing their knowledge of wine from seminars and conferences to several certification programs. The society’s goal is to foster and promote the professional education and development of the individual and the professional education and development of the wine industry as a whole.
The Professional certification programs they offer are:
• Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW)
• Certified Wine Educator (CWE)
• Certified Specialist of Spirits (CSS)
• Hospitality/Beverage Specialist Certificate (HBSC)
Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW)
This certification is widely recognized and regarded by the international wine and spirits industry. The program is self-study with a one hour examination to achieve the certification.
When registering for the course, students receive a study guide and options of examination dates. The Society sometimes offers an optional review session prior to an examination. Another resource that is available to members of the Society is an Online Wine Academy, which is designed to supplement the study guide and educate members on the different aspects of viticulture and wine.
The program covers the following areas: physiology of taste, wine composition and chemistry, faults, viticulture and enology, labels, laws and wine regions, the U.S. wine industry, wine's contribution to health, wine etiquette and service, food and wine pairing, and responsible beverage alcohol service.
Students must achieve a 75% or better score on their exam to receive the certification. After completion of the CSW certification, a student would be qualified to take the next certification, Certified Wine Educator certification.
Certified Wine Educator (CWE)
All participants wanting to pursue the CWE must have completed the CSW. This certification goes further to test the participant’s wine knowledge, tasting expertise, and teaching ability. Just like the CSW, the CWE is also widely recognized and highly regarded by the wine and spirit community.
This certification consists of intense theory exam, two blind tastings and a presentation on a wine topic. The program is self-study, but participants may use the Society’s on-line wine Academy, CSW study guide, and many more resources that the Society recommends.
The examination is broken down into the following areas:
Theory/Written – 85 multiple choice and one essay to show that the participant can formulate information and present to a target audience.
Varietal/Appellation Wine Identification – must taste and match eight different types of wines to a list of ten possibilities and provide tasting notes using the Society’s Tasting Rationale.
Faults and Imbalances Wine Identification – must identify oxidation and increased levels of sugar, acid, tannin, acescence, alcohol and sulfur in addition to correctly recognizing the unadulterated "control".
Presentation Skills Demonstration – must present to audience of more than six people on an approved wine topic for more than ten minutes and no more than fifteen minutes.
Responsible Beverage Alcohol Service Certification – must also present their certificate that they have completed beverage alcohol service program, like Serving It Right.
Certified Specialist of Spirits (CSS)
Again, this certification is widely recognized and regarded by the international spirits industry. It covers fermentation and distillation, whiskies, brandies, vodka, liqueurs, gin, rum, and tequila. The program is a self-study and is accompanied by a study guide.
Hospitality/Beverage Specialist Certificate (HBSC)
The Society has recently created this new program to meet the demand for people wanting to enter into the food and beverage industry. This certificate is an entry level beverage knowledge program that gives participants the tools needed to meet employer’s requirements for the food and beverage industry.
The program provides participants with a broad base of knowledge of all commercial beverages including wine and spirits. The content includes water, coffee, tea, soft drinks, beer, sake, cider, wine, and spirits and mixology. The program is self-study, with exams offered throughout the year.
The Institute of Masters of Wine was formed in 1955 to promote professional excellence and knowledge of the art, science, and business of wine. The Master of Wine is the highest level of educational achievement for the wine industry and there are only approximately 300 people in the world that hold this accreditation.
So how do you become a Master of Wine?
1. Must have wine industry experience. Candidates need to have worked in the wine industry for at least five years or must have significantly contributed or continually contribute to pursuit of excellence in the field of wine.
2. Have completed the WSET Diploma. All candidates must have completed the two year Wine Spirit Educational Trust Level 4 Diploma in Wines and Spirits. There are limited exceptions to this standard and the candidate must prove by certification that they have achieved a higher level of knowledge of wine.
3. Have completed the first year and second year study program. All candidates must complete the first year and second year study program and passed the first year assessment. Prior to writing the Theory Part of the examination, they must submit their three theory assignments.
4. Must have sponsorship. Candidates must be sponsored by their employer or be sponsored by a senior member of the wine industry.
5. Complete all parts of the examination. The exam is divided into three parts theory, practical and dissertation.
6. Admission to the Institute and the use of the title Master of Wine (MW). When the candidates have completed all parts of the examination, they will be invited to become members of Institute and be entitled the use the title of Master of Wine.
The Court of Master Sommeliers was established to improve standards of beverage knowledge and service within hotels and restaurants. The Court has 186 candidates that have earned the Master Sommelier Diploma and the right to use the title of Master Sommelier.
How do you become a Master Sommelier?
You must complete all three levels leading up to level 4 the Master Sommelier Diploma:
Level 1 – Introductory Sommelier Course & Exam. The program is delivered over two periods by a team of Master Sommeliers. They cover wines and spirits knowledge, proper wine service, and blind tasting. On the final day, the candidates will take an exam consisting of 70 multiple choice and theory questions, which they must achieve 60% to pass.
Level 2 – Certified Sommelier Exam. The exam is a one day exam delivered in three parts: written theory, blind tasting of two wines, and practical service examination. The theory exam will cover the fundamentals of wine, spirits, beer, and service with a large emphasises on wine appellations and grape varieties. The blind tasting involves two wines and it tests the candidate’s ability to utilize the Master Sommelier Deductive Tasting Method to identify the wine. The practical service exam tests the candidate’s skills in Standard Wine Service, Champagne Service, and Decanting Service. After successfully completing this exam the candidates would be consider for the level 3.
Level 3 – Advanced Sommelier Course and Examination. Once the candidate has achieved the above two levels, they will be considered for the Advanced Sommelier Course by a selection committee. If accepted, the course consists of three days of intense study and lectures with a team of Master Sommeliers, followed by a two day exam. The examination has three parts: practical wine service and salesmanship, theory examination based on the advanced Sommelier knowledge, and a blind tasting of six wines using the Master Sommelier Deductive Tasting format.
Level 4 – Master Sommelier Diploma Exam. After successful completion of the Advanced Sommelier Course, candidates can now take the Master Sommelier Diploma. The pass rate for the Master Sommelier Examination is approximately 10%. Similar to the Advanced Sommelier Examination, the candidates would be verbally tested three parts: an oral theory exam, a blind tasting of six wines, and a practical wine service test. Candidates have up to three years to pass all three parts of this exam.
In order to be accepted into the Advanced Course by the admissions committee, a candidate successfully complete the Introductory and Certified exams and have worked in wine/service industry for at least 5 years. After successfully completing the advanced course a candidate may then be invited to participate in the Master Sommelier Diploma Exam. Individuals who successfully complete all parts of the Master Sommelier Diploma will be invited to join the Court of Master Sommeliers and will be entitled to use the title of Master Sommelier.