Becoming a Sommelier

HomeDall'Uva ForumsItalian WinesSommelier ChatBecoming a Sommelier

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    • #2914

      I am throwing around the idea of becoming a sommelier as a second career or something to do when I retire and my wife is still working here in NYC. I have no restaurant experience or never worked in the wine business. Is it possible? It would be more of a hobby then a career change. What school and type of classes are needed? Would I have to be knowledgeable on all types of wines or could I just specialize in Italian? My heart is in Italian food and wine as its become an obsession!

      Thanks for any insight or info!

    • #2946
      Michael Horne

      sommelier-buttonHi Michael — first off, congrats on considering the Sommelier path, it’s a good fun and rewarding.

      I recommend you read through this article for some background info on becoming a Sommelier, and for some Resources you can use to get started.

      Becoming a Certified Sommelier isn’t a tough process, it just takes time and commitment.  If you take one of the Court of Master Sommelier training programs, you’ll need to do some offline training as there is a lot of “wine theory” you’ll need to learn and memorize – the principal wine producing areas of the world, grape varietal markers, wine service technique, etc.

      If you go the self-taught route, I suggest you find other people training for the Sommelier exams in your area, it’s great to be able to pair up or learn as a group.

      I strongly recommend you look into one of the more formal Sommelier training programs, like the one I took at the International Culinary Center in California (there’s one in New York, too).  It’s expensive – you’ll end up parting with about $10K – but it’s the most fun & reliable way to earn your Certified Sommelier status.

      I took their night class, meeting 3 times a week for 4+ hours a night over a 17 week period, plus a required field trip to a wine producer.  You’ll taste 10 wines per session — that’s over 500 wines from all over the planet (everything from high-end Bordeaux to real funky stuff from China) over the 17 week session.

      If you’d like to accelerate the learning and you can free up your daytime for day classes, they also have a 10-week session that meets 5 days a week, 4+ hours a day from 10AM to 2PM.

      Either way, the commitment of 200+ hours of in-class time is just the start. You’ll need to put in at least another 5-10 hours of homework per week studying the course materials, preparing for exams, and expanding your wine tastings.

      When you do the math of what it costs to buy 500+ wines from the key wine making regions, plus the time spent finding them, the cost of these intensive training programs is actually a good deal. Remember, you’ll be learning directly from Master Sommeliers PLUS learning from the palates of 19 other classmates.  It’s great fun and well worth the time and money.

      The California Sommelier Program is located south of San Francisco in Campbell, and the New York City Sommelier Program is located in SoHo

      I hope that gets you started. Let me know if I can be of more help.


      Michael Horne, CS
      Los Gatos, CA USA
    • #2947

      Ciao Michael!

      Thanks for the information, you gave me a lot to look at. I have taken some rec cooking classes at ICC in Soho and they do a great job and were lots of fun! The formal class at ICC, I have to admit is a little overwhelming as it has been a long time since I have taken a formal class! LOL!
      Other than getting work in a restaurant, what other job opportunities are there with this degree?

      Grazie mille!


    • #3046
      Michael Horne

      There are many job options out there for Sommelier grads from organizations with respected credentials. The obvious ones that come to mind are staff Sommelier at a restaurant, cellar manager/buyer, wine sales at a distributor — these are all direct selling/buying of wine in the hospitality sectors.

      You can also build a career and business as a wine list consultant — someone who researches and develops wine lists tailored to the cuisine of a specific restaurant. That requires you to build a relationship with the distributors and importers as well.

      Some Sommeliers also branch out into teaching, either local wine appreciation courses or wine tours. This can be a fun way to share your passion for wine with budding wine lovers.

      Regardless of your choice, having the base-level Sommelier Certification is important and will help open doors. Just be sure to get certified from an organization with respected credentials. Hope that helps.


      Michael Horne, CS
      Los Gatos, CA USA
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