How to Become a Sommelier (Wine Steward)

If you believe wine is the elixir of the gods and would like to accept a mission to help other people get excited about wine, then you might consider becoming a sommelier. A sommelier, also known as a wine steward, helps to make a dining experience that much more perfect by suggesting a wine to go with each course of a meal. From the liquid accompaniment to the cheese flight to wines to cleanse the palette to the perfect dessert wine, it's the sommelier's job to knows which wine is the right wine and why.

Culinary Arts

What is a sommelier?

A sommelier is a wine expert, trained in all aspects of wine service as well as food and wine pairing. Most sommeliers work in fine dining restaurants, and are sometimes in charge of the floor at these restaurants. duties may vary based on where they work, but in general these wine professionals are responsible for:

  • Pairing wines with food
  • Maintaining and updating extensive wine lists
  • Recommending wine based on a customer's palette and price range
  • Maintaining a wine inventory, ordering wine, and checking in shipments
  • Negotiating purchase prices on wine and determining restaurant and retail prices/profit margins
  • Keeping up with wine and food trends and industry developments
  • Educating people about wine

Sommelier jobs can be found in:

  • Fine dining restaurants
  • Wine distributing companies/wholesalers
  • Wine tasting rooms
  • Wine retailers
  • Hotels and resorts
  • Cruise ships
  • Teaching establishments

Sommelier certification and educational requirements

Although no formal education is required, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) points out that a sommelier without any credentials may have a tough time finding a job. Generally, sommelier degree programs and courses can be found at culinary schools and colleges and universities with hospitality programs. Many organizations offer foundation courses that provide an introduction to wine and are typically for restaurant industry professionals or wine enthusiasts. For example, the American Sommelier Viticulture & Vinification Course is an in-depth, 24-week academic course that covers the following topics:

  • Grape varieties
  • Climate and geography
  • Grape-growing and wine-making techniques
  • Soil industry statistics
  • Food pairing
  • Blind tasting techniques

Certification is recommended to those interested in becoming a sommelier. In the certificate program from Sommelier Society of America, you'll taste over 120 wines that retail for a total of $6,000 over 21 weeks. Other courses are more intensive and can be completed in as little as 11 weeks. Even these types of certificate courses may leave some ground uncovered when it comes to the roles and responsibilities of a professional sommelier who is trying to make a name for himself or herself in the industry. The Court of Master Sommeliers--considered the premier examining body worldwide--has four different designations when it comes to sommelier education:

  1. Introductory sommelier course and exam
  2. Certified sommelier exam
  3. Advanced sommelier course and exam
  4. Master sommelier diploma exam

To become a certified sommelier, the Court of Master Sommeliers requires that you be employed in the wine industry for at least three years. The certification process includes a fee, a written theory exam, a practical wine service exam, and a blind tasting of two wines. In the 40 years that the organization has been administering exams, only 170 people have earned the title Master Sommelier, which is considered the top credential in the world.

Sommelier salary and job outlook

Though the BLS doesn't collect data on sommeliers or make employment projections for this job specifically, the majority are employed in fine dining restaurants. This is a very niche role within a niche of the restaurant industry, so job growth will likely be below average. 

The salary for sommeliers vary widely by the type of establishment and your training and experience. The BLS doesn't collect salary data for sommeliers, but they do report salary statistics gleaned from the Master Court of Sommeliers. Sommeliers with limited experience can earn around $28,000 a year, but a Master Sommelier could earn anywhere from $80,000 to $160,000.

Overall, becoming a sommelier requires a love for wine and a desire to share that knowledge with others. If this sounds like it's too good to be true, then line up the next flight--you're already on your way to becoming a sommelier.

About the Author:

Browse Culinary Arts Schools & Colleges

Refine School Matches
Hide filters
  • SUBJECT Clear All

    See More


    See More



    Please enter valid US or Canada Zip.
            Results open in new window

            Searching Searching ...

            Matching School Ads
            Culinary Arts (AS)
            • Program areas include Culinary Arts, Culinary Management, and more
            • Students are taught cooking styles from around the globe, including Classical European, Asian, and Latin cuisine
            • Curriculum designed to prepare students for a career as a chef, with course topics that include Culinary Techniques, Management by Menu, and Nutrition
            • Alumni have appeared in reality competition shows such as Top Chef
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            • Transferable Credits
            Intensive Sommelier Training
            • Hands-on culinary education with focused attention on each student
            • An ACCSC School of Excellence with multiple “Best Vocational Cooking School” awards*
            • 15,000 graduates, including celebrities like Bobby Flay, David Chang, and Christina Tosi*
            • Programs in Culinary Entrepreneurship, Professional Culinary Arts, Professional Pastry Arts, and much more
            • Campuses in New York and Silicon Valley with nearby housing available
            Show more [+]
            Culinary Arts
            • Received the 2015 and 2013 “Cooking School of the Year” Award of Excellence from the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP).
            • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
            • Externship opportunities are available at numerous famous New York City restaurants.
            • Campus is located near downtown Manhattan, within walking distance of many popular attractions such as the Radio City Music Hall.
            Show more [+]
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid