The Definitive Guide
to Wine Education

IF YOU LOVE WINE, at some point you’ve probably wanted to learn more about it, particularly if you work in the hospitality industry and are looking for a formal qualification to advance your career; but what’s the difference between them, and which is right for you? It can be very challenging to know where to start, especially with all the abbreviations. WSET, CMS, WSG… what do they all mean?

THIS GUIDE will take you through all the major qualifications available, the learning processes and what you can expect from each. We emphasise instruction available in English. What’s the difference between the Wine and Spirit Education Trust and the Court of Master Sommeliers? Which level should I begin with if I have some confidence in my abilities? Are there courses available to learn about a single country? What about university-based classes and degrees?

Read through the whole guide or skip to the relevant chapters using the table of contents below (by clicking on the titles of each chapter).

TABLE OF CONTENTS

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

Wine and Spirit Education Trust

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

Wine Scholar Guild

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

Court of Master Sommeliers

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

The Institute of Masters of Wine

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

Society of Wine Educators

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

International Sommelier Guild

1.WSET

THE WINE AND SPIRIT EDUCATION TRUST

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

WHO IS THE WINE AND SPIRIT EDUCATION TRUST?

The Wine and Spirit Education Trust, better known as WSET, is a world leader in wine education. Originally set up in 1969 to increase professional knowledge and skills in the UK wine trade, it’s now expanded into every major market of the world and their qualifications are recognised and respected.

WSET has courses exclusively focused on wine, with spirits taught as a series of separate qualifications.

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

WHAT ARE THE WSET COURSES ALL ABOUT?

Originally intended as courses for members of the wine trade, lots of amateur wine enthusiasts now enter the program as well! WSET Courses focus on the worldwide wine market, including wines from every major producing country. There are four levels, each more difficult and advanced than the one before, but the focus is always along similar lines, going deeper with each level:

Grape Growing (Viticulture): Understanding how grapes are grown and what impact various natural factors have on potential quality and style. Why are Chardonnay grapes grown in Chablis so drastically different to Chardonnay grapes grown in Napa Valley? Why are sweet wines only made in very specific parts of the world? What can we realistically do in the vineyard to adapt ourselves to these natural factors depending on our goals? This all comes down to viticulture.

Wine-Making (Oenology): Nature takes the lead on viticulture, and we pick up the baton in the winery. From receiving the grapes after harvesting to the finished bottle of wine, the WSET looks at the major processes and decisions that take place in the winery and how it differs between major wine styles. What’s the major difference between making a red wine versus making a white wine? Why do rosé wines all have different shades and depths of colour? What can we do to correct natural imbalances in the grapes once they’ve been harvested? The decisions made in the winery will have a profound impact on the style of the resulting bottle of wine.

Wine Regions and Styles: A huge part of studying a WSET course is then linking the methods of production to the reality you see around the world. First, it’s learning the different names and grape varieties that define the world of wine. Do you know what the only permitted red grape variety is in Brunello di Montalcino? How does Margaux differ to Saint Émilion and where in the world are they? What’s the white grape that New Zealand has become defined by? At more advanced levels this goes deeper, to contrast and compare similar regions from around the world and to understand the differences between them. Even studying WSET Level 1 and focusing on the major grapes of the world gives you a whole new outlook on some otherwise confusing terminology!

Market Forces: This really comes into play more solidly in Levels 3 and 4, but there’s no escaping the commercial reality of wine. If screw-caps are a proven closure type, why do certain markets still prefer to use corks? What do the words on the labels really mean? Why does Europe focus on the names of regions rather than grape varietals? It all comes down to marketing and the market of wine.

Tasting Technique: WSET Courses focus heavily on learning how to taste wine, from the basics all the way up to advanced quality analysis and blind tasting. Each region, grape and major point is punctuated with a typical, relevant wine to help tie the theory together with reality. For example, if you study WSET Levels 1-3 with the Rack and Return APP in Barcelona, you will taste more than 120 wines and analyse each individually. Practice makes perfect! The most important element of WSET wine tasting is understanding how to accurately understand and communicate the experience of drinking a wine, as well as objectively rating its quality. It’s also the most entertaining part of every course.

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return
The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

WHAT ARE THE WSET LEVELS AND WHICH ONE IS RIGHT FOR ME?

WSET Courses are split into four different levels of difficulty and complexity. Each school approaches the courses in a slightly different way; some tend to have longer courses and offer more wines than other schools, but as a general rule you can expect the following:

WSET Level 1 in Wines. This is the entry level WSET course, and it’s designed to be accessible to absolute beginners while still covering a lot of ground, as its intended to be covered in one intensive day. It introduces WSET’s hallmark Systematic Approach to Tasting (SAT) methodology, covers the basics of grape-growing and wine-making and includes an in-depth tasting of the 8 major grapes of the world and the regions where they´ve risen to fame. It also includes a look at food and wine pairings at a structural level, information about the basics of service and finishes with a 45 minute, multiple choice examination covering 30 questions.

If you’re new to wine and want to build from the ground up, this 1-day course is perfect for you. It’s also a great boost for your CV if you’re looking to grow in the world of hospitality, whether that be in a hotel, bar or working on ships and yachts.

WSET Level 2 in Wines. This is the intermediate WSET Course and builds on knowledge learned in Level 1, though it’s possible to start here as well for those with more wine experience and time to study. It’s a big step up from Level 1, and while it is designed to be taught over two intensive days, it can be stretched out to three to give students thorough exposure to the material. It goes into more detail on wine-making and grape growing regions, including their representative grape varieties and wine styles (also fortified and sparkling wines). It concludes with an hour long, multiple choice examination covering 50 questions.

If you’re new to wine and an enthusiastic student, this is a great way to get a robust introduction to the world of wine. If you’re looking to make inroads into the wine industry or look to take a more serious role in the service industry, it starts here.

WSET Level 3 in Wines. This is an advanced WSET Course and builds on knowledge learnt at Level 2. Each school has their own policy about whether students can start at this level; some permit it, but only after a face to face meeting to go through the material. (WSET headquarters also offers a test to determine if you hold the knowledge required enrol in Level 3). This is the first truly professional-level WSET course, which requires teaching over five or six full days. It dives deeply into winemaking, grape growing, introduces some topics on wine economics, explores sparkling and fortified wines in detail and includes a very intensive tasting focus. It concludes with a 2.5 hour long examination including a multiple choice section covering 50 questions, a long-answer written section with 4 required sections, and a blind tasting of 2 wines.

This is an advanced course and should be considered for students who’ve completed WSET Level 2 and have the time to complete the rigorous study required to pass. This is a course for serious wine lovers, those looking to create a professional career in wine or to develop their existing career in the industry. It should not be underestimated!

WSET Level 4 in Wines. Commonly referred to as the “WSET Diploma,” this is the final qualification offered by WSET. This is a serious investment of time and money, as the course generally takes between 18 months and 3 years to complete, with the total broken down into 6 different units, each with corresponding exams and coursework to be completed.

This is a course only to be attempted by individuals who don’t mind serious study for a good 2-3 years of their lives! Having passed WSET Level 3 is a requirement.

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

WHY SHOULD I STUDY WITH WSET ?

Studying a WSET Wine Qualification has many advantages, whether it be related to the personal appreciation of wine, career progress, or perhaps the start of it!

  • Learn to evaluate wine, how to communicate and speak the language and to appreciate different quality levels and styles.
  • Meet other passionate wine lovers embarking on their own vinous journey.
  • Gain an understanding into the true value of a bottle of wine and what went into the cost of its production.
  • Learn how to read a wine label and use that information to understand the wine in the bottle, without ever having tasted it.
  • Add a globally-recognised qualification to your CV.
  • Learn about the production methods and important factors in wine production. You´ll never look at a bottle of wine the same way again!
  • Taste wines from across the world and open yourself up to a variety of new tasting experiences.
The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

HOW DO I STUDY WITH THE WSET ?

Whilst the WSET headquarters are based in London, its courses are taught all over the world by APPs (Approved Program Providers) that are typically wine schools with classrooms facilities and instructors. For example, Rack and Return is a WSET APP in Barcelona, Spain, teaching WSET Levels 1-3 in both English and Spanish, through both classroom and online courses. The easiest thing to do is to send an email to your nearest provider of WSET courses and see what their availability and structure is. The WSET website lists all APPs worldwide.

Studying in a physical location with a teacher is the most common option, as it allows the fullest opportunity to learn, ask questions and perhaps most importantly, taste a broad variety of wine. This is naturally dependent on geography and if there isn’t a school nearby, or if you’d prefer to study with a particular school or teacher, online studying might be a better option.

Studying with the WSET online is again provided by each wine school individually. The advantages of this format are the cheaper course rates and ability to study with any school in the world. The disadvantages are the lack of classroom time and importantly not every school will have you tasting wines as part of the course.

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

CONCLUSION

With the broadest availability of courses across the world, different forms of studying, a multi-level system and a syllabus that covers every element of the wine world, it comes as no surprise that the WSET courses are the most popular form of wine education in the world.

These qualifications are perfect for just about everyone, whether you’re looking to learn wine basics and improve your ability to pick out wines at restaurants, learning how to communicate about wine or whether you want to become a fully-fledged wine professional. The exception to this would be if you’re looking for a wine qualification that focuses heavily on food and wine pairings and/or the service of wine in a hospitality setting. In pursuit of this specific element of the wine industry, you might be better off looking at the Court of Master Sommeliers.

Check here for more info

2. WSG

THE WINE SCHOLAR GUILD

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

WHO IS THE WINE SCHOLAR GUILD?

The Wine Scholar Guild is a more recent addition to the world of wine education, founded in 2005 in the United States by Frenchman Julien Camus, with the intention of producing specific programs to focus on individual countries and topics. In contrast to the WSET, this means more intense focus and deeper content with a narrower scope, usually focused on the wines on a country (France, Italy and Spain thus far). WSG also offers master courses on particular regions within a country, which include the Loire, Champagne, Bordeaux, and Burgundy in France, as well as occasionally other programs like a short course on Sherry or an intensive class on soil science and how it relates to wine quality.

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

WHAT ARE THE WSG COURSES ALL ABOUT ?

The Wine Scholar Guild courses focus on an individual country and explore them in detail, covering more regions, grapes and styles than you would see at the WSET Diploma Level. The master level programs go even deeper into specific regions; these are wine industry-endorsed wine study programs for trade members and advanced wine students, with classes often taught by Masters of Wine.

As a result, expect to see less emphasis on wine basics and a lot more of a detail-oriented approach to the specifics of the country. Regardless of whether you’re learning about the wines of France, Italy or Spain you can expect to cover the following:

  • History: Uniquely for a wine course, the Wine Scholar Guild places a strong focus on the history and culture of the wine regions it covers.
  • Grape Varieties: With courses focusing on European regions there’s a lot of indigenous grape varieties to cover! Even just focusing on the major grapes, expect to cover 35+ grapes, many of which you’ll never have heard of before.
  • Viticulture and Winemaking: It’s important to make a distinction here: viticulture and wine-making are covered but not explained, as it’s assumed that you already have this basic knowledge. For example, when learning about the sweet wines of a particular region WSG will assume that students understand how sweet wines are usually made the course will cover only the methods pertinent to that specific region.
  • Regions: The teaching style of the Wine Scholar Guild is to break down countries by regions and dig into each in detail, focusing on the specific appellations, regulations, climates, geography and wine styles for each.
  • Tasting: There isn’t a set methodology for tasting as with the WSET, but sampling the wines of the regions helps tie the theory together with the reality of tasting.
Winery Barrels - Wine Education Guide by Rack and Return
The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

WHAT ARE THE WSG COURSES AND WHICH ONE IS RIGHT FOR ME ?

One of the great things about the national Wine Scholar courses is that they´re all aimed at the same level: enthusiastic wine lovers, including WSET students and anyone with a professional or personal interest in the wines of a certain country. All the courses are on a similar footing so it’s mostly a case of whether you want to dive into the wines of France, Italy or Spain. They generally last for 4 days as part of an intensive course, or around 24 hours of classroom time if split up. Like WSET, WSG has APPs beyond its headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Spanish Wine Scholar – Spain might just be the most exciting and least understood wine producing country in the Old World! With over 70 quality wine producing regions, hundreds of indigenous grape varieties and an exciting new wine scene, it’s no wonder that the world is finally waking up to the lure of Spanish wine. This is a brand new qualification and one that we´re delighted to offer at Rack and Return.

French Wine Scholar – France and wine are almost synonymous in the world and regardless of which wine qualification you study, you´re going to explore French wine in some detail! This qualification goes beyond even advanced courses in getting into the corners of French wine and breaking them down, region by region. This provides a very solid platform to build on and is definitely one for lovers of France!

Italian Wine Scholar – Italy is one of the most complex and confusing wine regions in Europe, owing to its fragmented geography and political landscape. With no fewer than 700 indigenous grapes, over 400 appellations and an enormous swathe of wine-styles, this course is for Italian wine geeks! Much like the Spanish Wine Scholar, a world of previously unknown wine awaits!

The WSG Master-Level courses are for those who want to focus on a particular prominent wine region (right now limited to France). They help sommeliers build award-winning wine lists with value in mind and discuss specific wine and food pairings. They are also intended for wine educators to sharpen their knowledge and to learn about specific wine producers in a region. A hallmark of each is that true experts in each wine topic lead webinars.

The Bourgogne Master-Level is backed by the Bourgogne Wine Board and last for about 5-6 months in which you will study Burgundy’s history and geology, viti/vini techniques, terroirs, vintages and significant producers in 35+ recorded lectures. There are also live monthly webinars and the exam included. There are scheduled dates for commencing the program. This is truly an intensive study!

The Bordeaux Master-Level consists of 15 live or recorded webinars as well as a printed manual. Class topics include things like Bordeaux Past & Present, Economics, contemporary Bordeaux viticulture, The Classifications of Bordeaux, wine terroirs, Trends in Bordeaux Winemaking, creating a Bordeaux wine list, Bordeaux wine collecting and investing, in-depth examination of each major appellation and more! WSG offers reading and tasting assignments to accompany each lecture and there’s instructor access. You can start at any time.

Expert instructors lead the Champagne Master-Level, intended for professionals or serious wine enthusiasts. Instruction is web-based and like the Bordeaux Master-Level, there are 15 recorded classes plus a printed manual, with interactive instructor access. Webinar topics deeply probe Champagne winemaking, including topics such as Champagne History, viticulture, Sub-Regional Studies: Côte des Blancs & Montagne de Reims, Sub-Regional Studies: Vallée de la Marne & Other Sub-regions, Making Champagne and the Sensory Impact of Choices, Blending and Balance, Champagne House Styles, grower-producers, and a Champagne Who’s Who.

The Loire Master-Level investigates wine production in the Loire Valley through 16 webinars, either live or recorded, with master instructors. The Loire Valley is one of the world’s most diverse wine regions with lots of innovative producers: Dry and sweet; still and sparkling; white and red. Topics include: Digging Deeply into the Soils, The Viticultural History of the Loire, Pays Nantais, Anjou Noir, Touraine, Anjou Blanc – Le Saumurois, a central Loire overview, Loire Economics, Future of the Loire – Viti Vini and Loire: The Epicenter of the Natural Wine Movement.

There´s no barrier to starting one of the courses, though it´s recommended that you´ve completed WSET 2 or 3 before beginning, so you have a solid foundation of knowledge, particularly around grape-growing and wine-making.

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

WHY SHOULD I STUDY WITH WSG ?

The Wine Scholar Guild offer something that no other major wine education institution does: country- and region-specific courses. Whether you choose to specialise in the wines of a country or French region such as Champagne, want to fortify your existing knowledge or support your WSET Level 3 or WSET Diploma studies, a Wine Scholar Guild course is the perfect solution!

  • Specialise in the wines of Spain, Italy and France and gain an expert level of knowledge
  • Specialise in the wines of Champagne, Burgundy, the Loire Valley and Bordeaux to gain expert wine knowledge
  • Learn the history, culture and common food pairings of Spain, Italy and France and the French regions
  • Learn the specific production methods and viticulture of Spain, Italy and France and the French regions
  • Meet passionate wine lovers and expand your personal and professional circle
  • Taste wines from across a country or region, looking at both commercially important and niche styles
  • Add a globally recognised qualification to your CV
The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

HOW DO I STUDY WITH THE WSG ?

Much like the WSET, the easiest way to start your learning experience with the Wine Scholar Guild is to find a school offering their courses and get in touch with them. However, unlike the WSET the Wine Scholar Guild doesn’t have the same global reach and so online learning is a far more popular and feasible method of learning with them!

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

CONCLUSION

Studying with the Wine Scholar Guild is a great way to dig deep into a single country or French wine region and turn it into a point of expertise. They’re wonderful courses in their own right, but they work far better in conjunction with a WSET qualification (or Master of Wine studies), so you can use the knowledge of wine-making, grape-growing and other factors to help understand the information more clearly. These courses are perfect for anyone with a strong passion for the wines of and for advanced students who want to fill in weak spots in their overall knowledge.

Check here for more info

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

3. CMS

THE COURT OF MASTER SOMMELIERS

WHO IS THE COURT OF MASTER SOMMELIERS ?

Like WSET, the Court of Master Sommeliers is a British wine institution, founded in 1977, though it has far more of a presence in the USA today. Much like the WSET it was founded with the intention of improving the professional capabilities of the wine trade, with a particular focus on the service of wine in the hospitality industry.

The focus at the Court of Master Sommeliers is very heavily wine-focused, though as it is a range of qualifications aimed at professionals within the hospitality industry you can also expect to cover information about food pairings, spirits and even cigars.

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

WHAT ARE THE CMS COURSES ALL ABOUT ?

The Court of Master Sommeliers works differently than both the Wine and Spirit Education Trust and the Wine Scholar Guild. There are no “schools” as such; instruction is based. Classroom time is more limited with a greater expectation of self-study, with only existing Master Sommeliers accredited as educators leading the courses and examinations.

Like the WSET, the Court of Master Sommeliers has a system of levels, each with a greater significance and difficulty than the last. However, unlike most other international programs, there is a strong focus on service, which is replicated in the examination format.

The topics covered by the Court of Master Sommeliers are very similar to the WSET. The main difference is that, at higher levels, the WSET moves towards a more academic style with long written answers and essays in the examination, whereas the CMS sticks to questions with singular answers. This is to replicate the scenario they’re primarily training students for: working in a hospitality role, fielding questions on the go.

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return
The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

WHAT ARE THE CMS LEVELS AND WHICH ONE IS RIGHT FOR ME ?

You actually don’t get much of a choice in the matter; if you want to study with the Court of Master Sommeliers, you have to start from the ground up and work through all the levels; no skipping! Similar topics are covered in each level, with sizeable jumps between levels,

Introductory Sommelier Certificate

This is the start of your CMS journey and involves a 2 day program, with the exam taking place on the morning of the 3rd day. Whilst this is the entry level qualification of the CMS program, it’s expected (and necessary!) that you’ve studied sufficiently in advance. Expect to cover the basics of grape-growing, wine-making, wine styles, spirits and liqueurs, wine service and wine tasting. The course finishes with a multiple choice examination covering 70 questions.

Certified Sommelier Certificate

This is often considered to be the benchmark qualification for sommeliers and professionals in the hospitality trade in the USA; Europe still tends to focus more on local programs. To sit the examination you must have completed the Introductory Sommelier Certificate and it’s often encouraged that students attempt both, one after the other, as part of the same course. You must study long and hard to pass this first time. The examination consists of a theory section with 40 multiple choice questions and a few short answer questions, a blind tasting of 2 wines and a practical examination, focused on service.

Advanced Sommelier Certificate

This is a very advanced qualification and a big step-up from the Certified Sommelier Certificate, which is required to attempt this examination. The course itself lasts for 5 days, with 2.5 days dedicated to revision and practice and the final 2.5 days for the examinations. Extensive, serious home-study is essential before attempting this exam. Like the Certified Sommelier Certificate, there are 3 parts: theory, tasting and service. Theory covers 24 multiple choice answers and 60 short answers, followed by blind tasting 6 wines and a rigorous, 45-minute service examination.

Master Sommelier Diploma

This is one of the rarest and most difficult in the world, with fewer than 300 holders of the title. Being a Master Sommelier is the of the Court of Master Sommeliers program and requires intense dedication, skill, preparation and no small amount of luck! The format is almost identical to the Advanced Sommelier Certificate, with the exception that the theory is 120 questions asked orally by a panel of judges, with no written element to the examination. Whilst SOMM is the documentary film that really brought the reality of this qualification to the attention of the broader public, the Uncorked series looks at it in a little more detail.

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

WHY SHOULD I STUDY WITH CMS ?

Studying a WSET Wine Qualification has many advantages, whether it be related to the personal appreciation of wine, career progress, or perhaps the start of it!

  • Learn to evaluate wine, how to communicate and speak the language and to appreciate different quality levels and styles.
  • Meet other passionate wine lovers embarking on their own vinous journey.
  • Gain an understanding into the true value of a bottle of wine and what went into the cost of its production.
  • Learn how to read a wine label and use that information to understand the wine in the bottle, without ever having tasted it.
  • Add a globally-recognised qualification to your CV.
  • Learn about the production methods and important factors in wine production. You´ll never look at a bottle of wine the same way again!
  • Taste wines from across the world and open yourself up to a variety of new tasting experiences.
The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

HOW DO I STUDY WITH THE WSET ?

The Court of Master Sommeliers keeps everything in house with regards to the teaching and organisation of the courses, so the only way to study with them is to contact them directly. They post upcoming courses on their website with all the relevant details.

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

CONCLUSION

The Court of Master Sommeliers is a prestigious institution and increasingly well-known across the world. Due to the limited nature of their courses, beginning can be more difficult and costly, particularly as travel is usually required to reach the locations of the courses and exams. If you’re an aspiring or current sommelier and your focus is entirely on a customer-serving role in the hospitality industry, these courses are designed for you. For most other roles within the wine industry, or wine lovers looking to learn more about wine, the Wine and Spirit Education Trust and Wine Scholar Guild offer more appropriate and accessible courses.

Check here for more info

4. IMW

THE INSTITUE OF MASTERS OF WINE

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

WHO IS THE INSTITUTE OF MASTERS OF WINE ?

The Institute of Masters of Wine (IMW) is the most prestigious institution in the world for the wine trade, and home to 418 professionals in 30 countries bearing the initials “MW.” It is supported by large corporations that reflect the breadth and diversity of the modern wine industry. The first examination for the MW title was held in London in 1953 and was attempted by 21 individuals. IMW remains based in London, but also holds seminars and other events in places like Adelaide, Australia and San Francisco, California.

MWs must prove their understanding of all aspects of wine by passing a rigorous multi-part exam involving a series of theory papers and blind tastings, plus an individual research paper on a subject that provides an original contribution to wine knowledge.

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

HOW DOES THE IMW OPERATE ?

In some ways, receiving the MW title is like getting a doctorate in wine, including expectations of critical thought and writing a thesis providing an original contribution to wine knowledge.

In other ways, studying with the Institute and then achieving the MW title is like joining an elite club, home to exceptional expertise in the wine world. The Institute emphasises that you will be entering an exceptional wine community, sponsored by some of the biggest powerhouses in the wine industry (like Constellation Brands, AXA Millésimes, Jackson Family Wines, and Champagne Bollinger), which can lead to personal and professional opportunities, but also lifelong friendships, which points again to that club-like atmosphere of the 400 or so MWs. The IMW refers to itself as a “family” of MW.

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return
The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

HOW DO I APPLY AND FOR THE IMW ?

This isn’t easy. Before applying you must prove: 1. active and professional involvement in the wine industry of at least 20 hours a week; 2. a wine qualification of at least WSET Diploma level or equivalent, which may include a high-level sommelier certificate or formal academic degrees related to wine; 3. a minimum of three years of current and continuous active professional involvement in wine by the time you apply, which can include involvement in viticulture, selling wine and wine writing and education.

Then, to apply, there’s not just an extensive application form but also a practical and theoretical entrance exam plus a professional reference requirement. The reference should be provided by a Master of Wine or another senior wine trade professional with over 15 years of experience in the trade.

It currently costs 200 GBP (without tax) to apply.

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

WHAT ARE THE IMW COURSES ALL ABOUT ?

There are no specific standard classes offered by IMW as with other schools. Aspiring MWs are assigned a mentor, who helps guide your progress. You are also required to attend annual seminars and other events. These are social and educational. The seminars take place in Eurasia, Europe, or the United States each year, and you can choose where you want to go.

There are three study stages, each of about a year in length, though you can take more time if you need, including a year off.

Stage One consists of a five-day residential seminar and four non-residential course days. Up to six pieces of your work will be assessed by the IMW during the year. At the end of this stage is an assessment, known as S1A, which takes place in early June in London, San Francisco or Adelaide. It involves participating in a 12-wine blind tasting paper and writing two essays on wine theory. Progression to stage two of the programme is dependent on successful completion.

Stage Two has similar requirements—residential seminar, non-residential courses, and at least 6 pieces of work submitted–but at the end of stage two, you take the first two parts of the MW exam, which has both practical and theoretical components. The former consists of three 12-wine blind tastings in which wines must be assessed for variety, origin, commercial appeal, winemaking, quality and style. The latter includes writing five papers on viticulture, vinification and pre-bottling procedures, the handling of wine, the business of wine, and contemporary issues. Exams take place in early June, and progression to the final stage depends on passing everything.

Stage Three involves researching and writing a 6,000 to 10,000 word paper. You get to choose the topic. The paper should demonstrate professional-level research, analytical, and communication skills.

MW students have access to a variety of resources, including:

  • The required annual residential seminar, offering a variety of lectures, workshops and tasting sessions. You may attend in the USA, Australasia or Europe.
  • Tailor-made course days, also required.
  • Your Mentor’s support, who is a MW assigned by the IMW.
  • Regular theoretical and practical assessments will be provided in the form of assignment marking in which useful feedback is provided by MWs.
  • Access to the student area of the IMW’s website, which contains educational resources and videos.
  • Exam resources including past papers and examiners’ reports and videos.
  • The student guide, giving advice on the MW study programme.
  • Discounted tickets for IMW events. Tastings and seminars are invaluable sources of information providing unparalleled opportunities to taste across vintages, styles or regions, often with world experts.
  • You also earn the chance to apply to join MW student visits and trips, which recently have included visiting the wineries of Margaret River, Lebanon, Napa Valley, Porto, Bordeaux and Burgundy.
The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

CONCLUSION

Those holding the MW credential are involved in all aspects of the wine world, including journalism, education, and winemaking. Being accepted into the program and the achieving the MW diploma grants entry into an elite club (or family) of wine trade professionals backed by wine industry leaders. It is far from easy to achieve, and it requires the WSET Diploma or its equivalent to even get in. For those pursuing the ultimate level in wine qualifications, this is it!

Check here for more info

5. SWE

SOCIETY OF WINE EDUCATORS

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

WHO IS THE SOCIETY OF WINE EDUCATORS?

SWE is about membership and having up-to-date, standardized exams on wine knowledge so that everyone knows what your qualification is all about. Founded in 1977 as a non-profit educational organisation, the Society of Wine Educators provides an industry standard for quality and responsible wine and spirits education and professional certification recognized by both the public and the wine sector, especially in the United States. It is headquartered on K Street in Washington, D.C. It’s orientation is like the WSET in terms of wine education for the trade, but it is also a membership organisation, and it holds an annual conference that includes educational seminars and professional interaction. There are also symposiums, online resources and a newsletter available to members.

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

WHY SHOULD I JOIN THE SWE?

SWE offers industry-recognized and popular wine qualifications on three levels. It’s similar to WSET, but also offers the benefits of membership. SWE also offers certifications in spirits. The credentials are perhaps better recognized in North American than in Europe. All courses and programs can be taken online and the Society provides a lot of support products to help students pass their exams. This includes prep classes included in the price of the exam fee. They also publish their own textbooks, which are updated every year and available in both print and digital format.

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return
The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

WHAT ARE THE SWE CERTIFICATE PROGRAMS?

HBSC – Hospitality Beverage Specialist

The most general qualification, aimed at hospitality workers, is the HBSC, Hospitality Beverage Specialist  Certificate. This course includes not just wine, which is the main emphasis, but also spirits, sake, cider, coffee, and tea, which are areas all sommeliers and beverage servers should be knowledgeable about. If you need an introductory class, it also provides the knowledge necessary to continue onto the higher-level certifications CSW and CWE. The course is self-paced and online, though you can purchase a study guide separately if you want. It’s about on the same level as WSET 1-2, but also includes lots of information on other beverages, which may be of interest. There is no instructor.

There is one final exam consisting of 80 multiple-choice questions. You must score 75% or higher to pass and unsuccessful candidates can take the exam a second time. The current cost is $99.00.  

For the next two levels, the way SWE works is to purchase a membership and the exam cost. You then have access to an array of educational support programs to ensure you pass the exam by scoring at least 75%. Some of these bear an extra cost, others do.

 

CSW – Certified Specialist of Wine

The rigorous Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) Exam covers Physiology of Taste, Wine Composition & Chemistry; Faults; Viticulture & Enology; Labels, Laws & Wine Regions; The United States Wine Industry; Wine’s Contribution to Health; Wine Etiquette & Service; Food & Wine Pairing; as well as Responsible Beverage Alcohol Service.

What do you get access to? Free to members are the online classes: 12 weeks with an instructor; monthly webinars on topics related to the exam; and the Online Wine Academy, which is provides a self-paced, interactive online education on viticulture and wine and practice quizzes (no instructor).

Available for purchase are the Study Guide, which is structured like a wine textbook and covers the worldwide wine sector; the CSW Workbook: 180 pages of study aids and practice quizzes–these are updated every year, and you must study one of the most recent editions for the exam; more practice tests and quizzes, based on the Study Guide and Workbook and ideal for use as final exam prep, available online; nearly 900 digital flashcards; and finally, digital wine map exercises consisting of over 800 graphic flashcards along with more than 20 drag-and-drop maps.  The SWE places a lot of emphasis on knowing wine appellations on a map. Note that you do not have to purchase most these items to pass the exam, just the Study Guide; they are aids.

The CSW Exam is 100 multiple-choice questions that must be completed within one hour.

 

CWE – Certified Wine Educator

This is the highest level wine certification offered by SWE. As for CSW, you are buying the right to take the exam, and then members have access to educational resources to help you pass. You must have the CSW certification to move on to the CWE exam, no exceptions. You have three years to pass.

This is a self-study process, but the Society provides the following support (in addition to what exists for the CSW candidates): a lengthy CWE Candidate Manual, available for purchase online, for use throughout the exam preparation process; an annually-updated Recommended Reading List; and an online study site, based on the books included in the Recommended Reading Lists and designed to assist with the theory portions of the exam.

The exam has several components, both theoretical and practical. For the practical exam, you need to travel to a testing location. The theoretical exam, which can be taken online, includes completing 85 multiple-choice questions and writing one essay. The practical portion includes Varietal/Appellation Wine Identification, Faults and Imbalances Wine Identification, and a Presentation Skills Demonstration. To pass you also must present a Responsible Beverage Alcohol Service Certification.

The Certified Wine Educator (CWE) Exam tests a student’s wine knowledge and validates his or her tasting.

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

CONCLUSION

The SWE is not so much a wine school as a membership organisation offering industry-recognised certifications and the educational resources you need to achieve them. Joining is not expensive, but the cost of buying exam entry along with recommended study aids can add up. There is really only one instructor-led class, online, which is to prepare CSW candidates. Otherwise there is a self-study wine academy and study aids like digital flash cards and workbooks. The CSW Study Guide is a serious document. Beyond that, it’s up to you to prepare for the exams. The CSW and CWE are serious credentials, more recognised in the USA than in Europe or elsewhere.

Check here for more info

6. ISG

INTERNATIONAL SOMMELIER GUILD

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

WHO IS THE INTERNATIONAL SOMMELIER GUILD?

Established in 1982 in the United States, the Guild is headquartered in Florida. It takes its educational mission seriously, from a holistic perspective. The key word here is sommelier, and its orientation is towards hospitality professionals. It offers online education as well as host schools and distributors throughout the United States, Canada, South America, Asia, Europe and Africa. The ISG’s certified Sommelier instructors boast a combination of hospitality experience and educational training. Instructors include more than sommeliers, encompassing winemakers, chefs, restaurateurs, hospitality experts, wine directors, importers, distributors, and retailers. The Guild also provides instruction in local languages through technology.

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

WHAT ARE THE ISG COURSES ALL ABOUT?

1st step – Intermediate Wine Certificate (IWC)

Whether building on an existing career in hospitality or enhancing your enjoyment of wines; the ISG IWC curriculum will build an extensive foundation to the world of wine, food, service, and management.

2nd step – Advanced Wine Certificate (AWC)

An advanced course designed to build on your knowledge from the ISG IWC based on regional approach. The course covers a broad spectrum of knowledge and understanding of wine, spirits and ales including viticulture, vinification, regional appellation laws and more.

3rd step – Sommelier Diploma Program (SDP)

This professionally-oriented hospitality certification is designed for future industry professionals who require to extensive but nuanced training for functioning at the highest levels of the hospitality industry. The SDP is a comprehensive sommelier education program that provides vocational competencies for the ever-changing industry.

4th step – ISGM Master Wine Business, Sommelier, Nutrition, Oenology (ISGM WSNO)

 

5th step – ISGM Master Wine Business, Sommelier, Nutrition, Oenology Degree (ISGM WSNO Degree)

The ISGM course is 90 weeks, two to three weekly sessions, 192 days, 1,817 hours. The ISGM is a multi-disciplinary program that provides a more rounded degree than most universities, combining full oenology, wine business, nutrition, and sommelier studies.

Classes are online, live online or in a classroom.

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return
The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

CONCLUSION

With international scope and a holistic program, ISG also provides multiple levels of classes to suit your knowledge level and professional goals. This is a program oriented towards those seeking to advance hospitality careers. The online study options provide great flexibility.

Check here for more info

7. REGIONAL WINE STUDY CENTRES

HERE WE INTRODUCE  wine schools that are more regionally focused, especially for Old World wines. Each has its own specialties and particularities, and these are great study programs if you happen to be in a particular area or want to enter the wine trade related to a particular country.

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

WEINAKADEMIKER - AUSTRIAN WINE ACADEMY

Who is the Austrian Wine Academy?

The Austrian Wine gives live courses in Austria, Italy, Germany and Switzerland and operates the Club Weinakademiker. A not-for-profit organisation, it was founded in 1991 and has grown into the largest wine educational institution in Europe, with more than 15,000 wine students at all levels annually.

Their Diploma Course is an internationally-recognized training for professionals in the wine industry, and it can form the basis for the Master of Wine training. This is an intensive course of study that takes 1½ to 3 years to complete depending on your study pace. It’s equivalent to the WSET Diploma, but with additional specialized training and requirements, including writing a thesis and then an oral defence with expert instructors. After successful completion of the course, you can use the prestigious title “Weinakademiker”. You sign a code of conduct and are included in the online directory of the Association of International Alumni. There are currently more than 800 Weinakademiker from 38 different countries.

What are the Wine Academy’s Courses and Certificates?

DSE – Diploma Course Central Europe

6 modules including excursions to wineries and exams.

DSI – Diploma Course International

3 modules, which take about 10 days to complete. The first two modules occur in Austria and the third module takes place in Italy.

DSC – Diploma Course Rheingau / Burgenland / Alto / Adige / Zurich

This training consists of 6 modules in wine regions of 5 countries. You visit the famous wine university in Germany as well as Weinakademie locations in Austria, Zurich, and Brixen.

The education takes an average of two years and is very intensive.

Check here for more info

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

SDEN - STICHTING DRANKEN EXAMENS AND NORMERING (THE NETHERLANDS)

Who is the SDEN?

In Holland, there are two major providers of wine education:  WSET and SDEN, which is the domestic organisation.
Both offer four levels of qualifications, but there are differences, and SDEN actually offers a fifth qualification at a very high level. SDEN translates as the Foundation for Drinks Exams and Standards. Somewhat like SWE in the USA, its main purpose is a unified set of exams providing a uniform qualification standard. Training and examinations must be separate is SDEN’s guiding principle, providing objective exam grading standards and thus a well-recognized qualification. Therefore, SDEN is not actually a school, but there are wine centres across The Netherlands that provide classes leading to taking a particular exam. The IMW recognizes SDEN qualifications if you want to pursue a MW title. Of course, SDEN has its own Level 5 title, Magister Vini.

What are the SDEN levels of wine study and are they right for me?

The Dutch wine exams have 5 levels. SDEN1 (level 1) to Magister Vini (level 5). They also offer exams on beer and spirits knowledge.

Twelve independent schools in The Netherlands currently offer courses for SDEN1 (diploma Wijnvignet), SDEN2 (diploma Wijnoorkonde), SDEN 3 (Diploma Wijnbrevet), SDEN 4 (Vinologen-opleidingen van de Wijnacademie), SDEN5 (Magister Vini)

 The SDEN level 1 exam is intended as an introduction to wine for people who want to know more about wine professionally or personally. The SDEN level 1 exam is intended for employees in the catering industry, in the wine department of a supermarket, in the wine trade/liquor store or a wholesaler. In addition, this exam is also suitable for wine lovers.

The SDEN level 2 exam, also known as the Wine Charter, is intended for catering employees in an executive position who give wine advice on the shop floor or in a bar, café or restaurant.

This requires knowledge of specific wine styles and the employee must have the necessary skills. For broadening personal wine knowledge, this exam is also suitable for the private wine lover.

The SDEN level 3 exam, also known as the Wine Certificate, is intended for employees in the retail or wholesale trade and catering for whom extensive knowledge of wine is necessary for their work.

The SDEN 3 Wine Certificate gives access to the Wine Academy’s Vinologist training.

The SDEN level 4 exam, also known as Vinologist of the Wine Academy, is intended for wine buyers, consultants and/or sellers from the retail or wholesale trade and sommeliers who require specialist knowledge of wine in their daily work. Private wine enthusiasts with a deep interest in wine are also eligible for this exam. The exam SDEN 4 – Vinologist can only be applied for if SDEN 3 – Wine certificate has already been obtained.

The SDEN Level 5 Magister Vini exam is designed for retail or wholesale wine purchasing managers, journalists, writers, consultants or sellers and sommeliers who want to have their knowledge and understanding tested at the highest professional level.

The exam SDEN level 5 – Magister Vini can only be applied for if SDEN level 4 – Vinologist has already been passed.

Check here for more info

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return
The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

ITALIAN WINE CENTRAL - EXPLORING ITALIAN WINE (EIW) (USA)

Who is Italian Wine Central (IWC)?

Online since 2013 from its base in the United States, IWC is a key spokes medium for Italian wine in the United States. It provides wine information and education to promote Italian wine sales, including a website, two educational programs, and several editions of the manual Into Italian Wine.

What are the IWC’s Wine Classes?

Level 1: Discovering Italian Wine is an introductory course for learning the best-known Italian red and white grape varieties and red, white, rose, sparkling, and dessert wines. You will also learn the basics of major Italian wine denominations. The class includes tasting resources for beginners. This class is at a knowledge level between WSET Levels 2 and 3, or for those wanting extra Italian wine knowledge when preparing for the Society of Wine Educator’s Certified Wine Specialist exam.

Level 2: Exploring Italian Wine™ is an advanced-intermediate course developed for those who want to understand the spectrum of Italian wines. It includes a tightly-curated curriculum focused on mastering the large array of Italian wines and grape varieties that appear on export markets, leaving more obscure and rare Italian wines for later study. There are a lot of Italian wines and grape varieties! The program covers all the classic, commercially significant, and up-and-coming Italian wines with a presence outside Italy.

Exploring Italian Wine is open to anyone interested in the wide array of wines Italy has to offer. It builds on the foundation of the level one course, but introduces additional levels of detail and a broader scope that includes wine areas all around Italy.

In addition to the core content of the course, the Exploring Italian Wine program includes supplementary information about the Italian language, culture, and cuisine, as well as quizzes and exercises to help with retention. Those who master the course content are well positioned to take the exam (additional cost) to become certified as an Italian Wine Professional™ (IWP).

Check here for more info

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

LE CORDON BLUE (UK)

Who is Le Cordon Bleu London?

Part of the famed culinary school, Le Cordon Bleu’s Spirits & Wines School in London offers sommelier training that combines wine knowledge theory with practical learning. Class offerings cover everything from sensory evaluation techniques to business management and industry contact. There are also wine tasting masterclasses offered in evening sessions.

What is the wine program and is it for me?

The main qualification option is the Diploma in Wine, Gastronomy and Management. This full-time wine business management course integrates in-depth instruction in wine with gastronomy as well as their management within a commercial environment. There are in-house and industry presentations and field trips, and instruction emphasises service, and the importance and significance in a global culinary and cultural setting. Beverages, including but not limited to wine,  are paired with an extensive range of world cuisines, cheeses, pâtisseries and chocolates to illustrate dining from all sectors of the hospitality industry. Experience observing operations in Le Cordon Bleu’s CORD restaurant is also offered. Students conduct events such as virtual wine tastings, employing practical skills in a public setting.

The diploma includes 2 terms of study at Le Cordon Bleu London, which may be followed by a 3-month internship.

Check here for more info

8. UNIVERSITIES, INSTITUTES AND COLLEGES

WANT TO GET a formal academic degree or qualification in wine, winemaking or viticulture? Then it’s worth reviewing the universities, institutes, and colleges below, all of which offer traditional academic educations and/or technical training in wine-related areas. Some also offers WSET, SWE or WSG classes, but this is usually in addition to formal, instructor-led courses. There’s everything from diplomas and certificates to associate and bachelor’s degrees to doctorates! These are usually full programmes less for wine enthusiasts and more for those starting a wine-related career; they are mostly residential and thus offer less flexibility than a lot of the wine school training covered above. A few of the institutions, like UC Davis, offer some shorter, online courses.

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

University of Adelaide (Australia)

Who is the University of Adelaide?

Adelaide is the premiere wine studies university in Australia, which is a major wine producing country. When the University boasts that if offers “a world-class concentration of scientific research, education and infrastructure at the Waite campus,” that’s no joke. About 70% of Australian wine research happens there, so it’s a great place to study if you want to learn about winemaking and viticulture.

What are Adelaide’s wine programs and are they for me?

Adelaide offers on-campus academic study for degrees, with several bachelors and master’s degree options:

  • Bachelor of Viticulture and Oenology – 4 years. 
  • Honours Degree Bachelor of Viticulture and Oenology – 2 years.
  • Graduate Certificate in Wine Business – 2 years. 
  • Graduate Diploma in Wine Business – 2 years. 
  • Graduate Diploma in Viticulture and Oenology – 2 years. 
  • Master of Wine Business – 2 years. 
  • Master of Viticulture and Oenology – 2 years.

Check their degree finder here

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

University of Melbourne (Australia)

Who is the University of Melbourne?
Melbourne is a major Australian research university.

What course do they offer and is it for me?
A 4-week online course in Sustainable Winery Operations emphasises practical winery operations and is for those wishing to develop efficient, competitive and sustainable production at an international level of quality.

Check here for more info

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

Charles Sturt University (CSU), Wagga Wagga (Australia)

Who is CSU?

CSU’s programs emphasise winemaking career-oriented education, including its practical and business aspects. You will gain scientific and foundational knowledge with an eye towards preserving traditional winemaking techniques, developing innovative manners of production and generating new methods of management and marketing.

What wine-related courses does CSU offer and are they for me?

Bachelor of Wine Science

Combine science and creativity to develop outstanding wines with the Bachelor of Wine Science program. Designed to develop both knowledge and hands-on skills in winemaking, wine science and wine appraisal, this degree is backed by CSU’s four-decade history of delivering courses that blend science, business and practical training. You can choose to study this course part-time over six years or fast-track your degree – either online or via blended learning (a combination of on-campus and online study) – and complete it within four years.

Bachelor of Wine Business

​​This path presents students with the grape-to-table journey. It’s suited for those seeking a career in sales and marketing or managing a vineyard or winery.

Bachelor of Viticulture

Build a career at the crux of where all wines begin with the Bachelor of Viticulture from Charles Sturt University. This degree is designed for vineyard managers and viticulturists – offering extensive studies across the discipline. CSU is the largest provider of agricultural, horticultural and wine science education supporting rural industries in Australia, offering a clear competitive edge for graduates.

Check here for the wine related courses

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return
The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

Brock University Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (Canada)

Who is the Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute?

Located in Ontario, Canada, the emphasis here is on producing wine in a cold climate, and the region boasts numerous wineries. If you’re looking to join the wine industry as a winemaker, vineyard or lab manager, sensory scientist, or wine researcher, Brock can prepare you well, offering two undergraduate programs as well as graduate studies, with readily accessible faculty and staff.

What are the study programs and are they for me?

Honours Bachelor of Science in Oenology and Viticulture

To meet the growing needs of the grape and wine industries in Canada and abroad this BS program gives a comprehensive scientific education as well as practical skills in oenology and viticulture. Students all receive exposure to marketing, tourism and wine appreciation. Practical studies are included, in the vineyard and the winery. The program emphasises biotechnology and fermentation.

Certificate in Grape and Wine technology

This program allows those with an existing science degree to gain the training necessary to enter the grape and wine industry or those already in the industry to upgrade their knowledge. All courses meeting Certificate requirements can be directly transferred to the bachelor’s in science if students choose to pursue that degree.

Check here for more info

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

Institut des Sciences de la Vigne et du Vin, University of Bordeaux (France)

Who is the University of Bordeaux?

Bordeaux is in many ways the epicentre of the wine industry, providing an extremely rich learning environment. In addition to degree programs the ISVV offers short courses, with a broader range available in French, but including some English-language classes as well.

What does offer and are these courses for me?

In French, there are more than 23 short training courses covering all the main aspects of the wine industry:

  • Tasting (introductory and advanced) and professionalisation
  • Oenological practices (vinification of wines, oxygenation and filtration)
  • Viticulture (sustainable vine protection, physiology and winemaking practices)
  • Marketing and economics (marketing, financial analysis and stakeholders in the sector)
  • Wine tourism (vine & wine history, landscapes and culture in Aquitaine)

Some examples include:

Tasting training – Certificate WTA, Wine Tasting Ability. 3 levels. WTA 1, 2 and 3

Oenological practises – 5 course themes:

  • Vinification – production of red wines
  • Vinification – production of white wines
  • Knowing how to recognize wine faults
  • On the proper use of microbiological analysis in oenology
  • Control of S02 during vinification: how to reduce doses

Viticulture training course – course theme Physiologie de la vigne et dépérissement.

To take stock of the latest knowledge in plant physiology and learn how to better adapt practises to reduce dieback…

Wine tourism training courses – 2 course themes:

  • Develop an eco-wine tourism offer
  • Develop a digital strategy to enhance its commercial and wine tourism offer

To learn about the historical construction of wine-growing landscapes and learn how to better enhance it for wine tourism.

In English, there are current 4 short courses: Bordeaux wine making specificities; International wine business; Terroir and wine management; and Sensory analysis as a tool for monitoring winemaking. There are no online options. These courses are mostly designed for those already working in the wine industry and they draw on the Bordeaux with its hundreds of wineries for practical experience.

Check their programs here

 

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

Kedge Wine School (France)

Who is Kedge Wine School?

Like the Institut des Sciences de la Vigne et du Vin, Kedge is based on Bordeaux, but also has campuses in Marseille and Paris. KEDGE was founded in 2013 from the merger of two renowned business schools that already had international outreach:  BEM (Bordeaux Management School) founded in 1874 and EUROMED Management in Marseilles founded in 1872.

What courses of wine study does Kedge offer and are they for me?

The emphasis here is more on business and wine trade education. In addition, Kedge’s programs use WorldSom, a sommelier school composed of three top notch sommeliers, for the sommelier module of the MSc in Wine & Hospitality Management. Tailor-made programmes are also offered to industry professionals.

Kedge offers three degree programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Master of Science in Wine & Spirits Management

Wine and spirits are part of an ever-changing ecosystem consisting of a fragmented, complex, yet fascinating industry. To understand wine and its markets a solid technical base provided to students. They learn to assess the financial, economic, marketing and environmental issues, as well as trends, opportunities and constraints of the market.

The program lasts 4 years.

Master of Science in Wine & Hospitality Management

The Master of Science (MSc) in Wine & Hospitality Management is jointly delivered by Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL) and KEDGE Wine School, two leading institutions recognised in their respective fields by international professionals of the Food & Beverage and Wine & Hospitality Industries.

The program lasts 4 years.

Bachelor Wine Specialisations

KEDGE Wine School offers two new specialisations in the 3rd year of the KEDGE Bachelor. Wine & Sustainability, offered in Bordeaux, and Wine Tourism & Tourism, offered on the Marseille and Toulon campuses. You can join these specialisations, either by coming from the second year of the Bachelor, or by holding a validated after a selection on file and interview.

This program lasts 3 years.

Check their programs here

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return
The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

Université du Vin (France)

Who is the Université du Vin?

Created in 1978, the Université du Vin offers professional education aimed at the wine and vine professions.It is located in an active winemaking region of the Cotes du Rhone appellation, Suze-la-Rousse. The university offers some English language courses on Rhône wines, as well as professional degree courses in French.

What are the wine courses and are they for me?

More than a hundred continuing professional training courses are offered each year, on diverse themes and for all wine-related trades from vine to glass:

  • Viticulture
  • Oenology
  • Wine estate management
  • Quality and Labels
  • Tasting techniques
  • Knowledge of the vineyards and wines of France
  • Marketing and wine tourism
  • Wine English
  • Sensory analysis
  • Sommelier and Catering

English programs include:

  • International Sommelier Program consisting of content covering all aspects of sommelier work such as winemaking, wine geography, analytical tasting, service, management and marketing.  There is a flexible approach to education consisting of lectures, distance courses, internships and bilingual modules. This part-time program has 7 modules spread out over a minimum of one and a half years of study.
  • A Study Trip for wine professionals to French vineyards.

Check here for more info

 

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

Hochschule Geisenheim University (Germany)

Who is Geisenheim University?

This is a major German university for studying food and beverages as well as nature and the environment from a scientific and technical angle. Programs are career-oriented and Geisenheim is renowned worldwide for the quality of its degree programs, which have a practical orientation. Students also actively get to work with research faculty.

For Viticulture, Oenology and Wine Business programs, the University also cooperates with international partners to offer various joint or double international degree programs.

What wine studies does Geisenheim offer and are they for me?

English-language Courses related to the wine industry include:

  • International Wine Business B.Sc. Geisenheim calls this “The Whole Wine World in an English-speaking Degree Program” and unlike the two master’s programs below, it is entirely offered by them. The focus is equal parts marketing/business and the art of winemaking. Coursework for the degree combines topics in economics with viticulture and winemaking, with additional practical projects, lectures from industry experts, excursions and practical training. About 2/3 of classes are obligatory, but the remaining third you can use to home in on a particular area such as management, marketing, or international
  • Focusing on winemaking and marketing, VITIS-VINUM is a double Master’s (M.Sc.) degree program from a consortium of the Universities of Torino(on behalf of the schools at Torino, Milano, Palermo, Sassari and Foggia), Udine (on behalf of the consortium Udine, Padova, Verona and Bolzano) and Geisenheim.The program focuses on vine cultivation, winemaking and wine marketing, as well as quality management, analysis and certification. Besides learning about innovative oenological techniques,  students learn to develop effective marketing strategies, much in demand by wine
  • The Vinifera EuroMaster is an M.Sc. program offered by a consortium of highly reputed European institutions of higher education (Lisbon Technical University, Portugal; Madrid Polytechnic University, Spain; Montpellier SupAgro, France; consortium of the universities of Turin and Udine, Italy; and Geisenheim, Germany) active in viticulture, oenology and wine business education. The program is coordinated by Montpellier SupAgro.The first year of study is jointly conducted in English by all partners of the consortium in Montpellier. During the second year, the master’s students switch into one of the consortium members’ master’s programs, according to their career objectives. All courses in the second year, except for courses in Madrid, are taught in English. The Vinifera program mirrors the diversity of European viticulture and oenology, and profits from the wealth of knowledge and experience of its partner institutions.

Check here for more info

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Eastern Institute of Technology (New Zealand)

Who is EIT?

Centred on a 28-hectare campus outside Napier, EIT offers a range of viticulture and wine qualifications both on-campus and by distance by highly knowledgeable and experienced lecturers in New Zealand’s premium wine growing regions, including Hawke’s Bay. The emphasis here is technical viticulture and winemaking, including a bachelor’s degree in viticulture and wine science, though there are also options for studying wine business and innovation at the post-graduate level.

What wine courses does EIT offer and are they for me?

Courses of study include Certificate in Cellar Operations, Certificate and Graduate Diploma in Viticulture, Graduate Diploma in Wine Science, and Master’s, Certificate, and Diploma programs in Wine Business and Innovation, including online study options.

Programs are very much oriented to the needs of the New Zealand wine industry. The Wine Business & Innovation program offers advanced and broad studies to your existing industry experience. “The programmes have been developed in response to calls from the New Zealand wine industry for graduates who can demonstrate critical understanding of diverse industry issues through a commercial lens.”

Check their qualifications here

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return
The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

Plumpton College (UK)

Who is Plumpton College?

This is a longstanding UK agricultural college with its own commercial winery as a more recent addition. Wine-related study programs are offered in conjunction with the Royal Agricultural University, which allows granting undergraduate degrees of fours and two years in length as well as a master’s degree. Plumpton has a well-trained faculty covering specialties in all areas of winemaking and business. There are also part-time courses.

What wine courses does Plumpton offer and are they for me?

Degree programs include:

  • BA (Hons) International Wine Business
  • BSc (Hons) Viticulture & Oenology
  • FdA Wine Business
  • FdSc Wine Production
  • MSc Viticulture & Oenology

Short courses include WSET Levels 1-4 as well as:

  • Characterising Wine
  • Wine Sensory
  • Principles of Wine Business
  • Wines & Spirits
  • Principles of Sparkling Winemaking
  • Principles of Vine growing
  • Principles of Winemaking

Check their course here

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

University of California at Davis (USA)

Who is UC Davis?

Generally known as Davis, this University of California campus is the principal centre for teaching and research on viticulture and oenology in the Americas. It is world renowned.There are really two different schools related to wine: the regular university degree programs as well as additional continuing educational opportunities provided by UC Davis Extension.

What wine classes and programs does Davis offer and are they for me?

Continuing education programs include a 5-day program offered once a year in cooperation with the Organisation Internationale de la Vigne et du Vin (OIV) M.Sc. degree in Wine Marketing, which one can attend online. In 2021 it cost $1,400 for the full program or $325 per day, with each day focused on a different topic.

There are also presential short courses on:

  • viticulture and winemaking topics offered throughout the year, including, for example, vineyard irrigation and topics in wine analysis;
  • winemaking business, including tasting room design and management;
  • sensory evaluation

Finally, there is a well-regarded online certificate course on Winemaking that last 18-24 months and includes 5 classes. Students learn:

  • To apply a systematic and scientific approach to the practice of assessing wine qualities 
  • Evaluate the stability of wine 
  • Understand the principal mechanisms of sensory perception
  • To apply fundamental principles of analytical chemistry and microbiology to winemaking
  • Understand how to grow quality grapes

Check their courses here

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

Fresno State University (USA)

Who is Fresno State?

Home to a 120-acre vineyard and bonded winery, Fresno State’s viticulture and oenology program emphasizes practical application of knowledge learned. The program formally started in 2000, and you will be truly immersed in the winemaking environment of California, with a campus situated in the San Joaquin Valley, at the base of the Sierra Nevada Mountains

What wine-related courses does Fresno offer and are they for me?

There’s a traditional 4-year undergraduate program and a M.S. in Viticulture and Enology. This 30-unit program provides in-depth knowledge of the fundamentals of plant physiology, microbiology, and grape and wine chemistry, as well as technical writing and formal presentation of research reports.

Check their courses here

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

Sonoma State University Wine Business Institute (WBI) (USA)

Who is the Wine Business Institute at Sonoma?

While Fresno State emphasises practical grape growing and winemaking, at Sonoma State the focus is on wine business and management. It was an innovator in offering a wine-oriented MBA, and now has several more flexible options, including online study. The school has great connections with the local wine industry. Founded in 1996 the WBI provides cutting-edge research that informs industry best practices as well as The WBI offers online and in-person wine-focused degrees and industry certifications.

What programs does the Institute offer and are they for me?

Study options include certificates in Wine Business Management, Wine Entrepreneurship, Wine Industry Finance & Accounting, and Wine Sales Management. This is in addition to the Professional Wine MBA, the Executive Wine MBA, and the Global Executive Wine MBA.

The Professional Wine MBA includes a business intelligence data analytics challenge, a capstone project, and courses taught by advanced practitioners active in the local wine industry, which is among the most renowned in California. Students develop an ability to synthesise and present analyses for managerial decision making. You can complete the program on a one-year, full-time, or two-year, part-time basis. 

A purely online course is the Wine Business Management Certificate, which emphasises Wine commerce and trade, wine marketing and sales, eCommerce, business issues associated with viticulture and winemaking, strategy in building a wine business, finance, accounting, and management in practical application to the wine industry, and regulatory issues concerning wine. There are two required classes, Introduction to Wine Business (4-weeks) and Survey of Key Drivers in Wine Business (8-weeks). Then you can choose from advanced electives for 16 weeks of study.  These are instructor-led online classes, and if you miss a class, everything is recorded for later review.

Check their courses here

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return
The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

Burgundy School of Wine & Spirits Business (France)

Who is the Burgundy School?

This is a well-recognized business school offering advanced degrees and MBAs in the heart of the world’s most famous wine region. This pioneering school is ranked #1 in France, with programmes taught in English or French. There are great opportunities for wine-world networking and an international student body. Classes are frequently enhanced with case studies, workshops, field trips, conferences, and guest lectures.

What wine courses does Burgundy School of Business offer and are they for me?

You can apply to four specialised programmes:

  • Master of Science Sustainable Wine Tourism & Gastronomy
  • Master of Science Wine Management
  • MBA Wine & Spirits Business
  • Specialised master’s in international Trade in Wines and Spirits (only offered in French)

The school also teaches WSET Levels 2 and 3.

Check their courses here

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

George Brown College (Canada)

Who is George Brown College?

George Brown is among Canada’s premiere hospitality-oriented schools. It offers a Wine Specialist Certificate and professional sommelier training for the industry, in conjunction with the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers (CAPS).

What wine courses does GBC offer and are they for me?

The CAPS Certified Sommelier Program provides advanced professional development for those aspiring to be sommeliers. There are pre-entry requirements including knowledge from either the college’s own wine courses or WSET Level 3. It takes a little over one year to complete. There is an entry exam.

The Wine Specialist Program explores the major wine regions of the world. Enhance your in-depth knowledge and understanding of the variety of wines available and how they are made. Learn how style is affected by regional differences and production variations; develop your palate and wine appreciation through critical tastings guided by industry experts in a professional setting. Courses in beer and spirits are intended to round out your expertise. The College also offers WSET Levels 1-3.

You can also take individual classes. Quite a few wine courses have online options, including Wines 1 &2, Sensory Evaluation of Wines, Grape Varietals, French Wines, and Food & Wine Pairing. These are instructor-led courses.

Check their courses here

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

Johnson & Wales University, College of Culinary Arts (USA)

Who is Johnson & Wales?

Johnson & Wales University is a major, well-recognised culinary school in the US. It has two campuses, one in Providence and one in Charlotte.

What wine classes does J&W offer and are they for me?

This leader in beverage education has thousands of candidates who have been certified by various credentialing organisations. Johnson & Wales currently provides courses to help candidates pass the Society of Wine Educators’ Certified Specialist of Spirits (CSS) Certification and The Certified Specialist of Wines (CSW). Johnson & Wales is accredited as a WSET APP. “A successful career is marked by an appropriate education verified by a credible certification program that is recognised both by the public and one’s peers.”

Check their programs here

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return
The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

NMIT Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology (New Zealand)

Who is NMIT?

A technical school, NMIT recently was accredited to offer degrees and not just diplomas, in viticulture.

What viticulture programs does NMIT offer and are they for me?

The Bachelor of Viticulture and Winemaking offers a three-year full-time degree, which can be studied part time. They also offer shorter diploma courses in viticulture, wine production, wine science, wine chemistry, international wine industry and wine appreciation or bar work courses. The programs include:

Check here for more info

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

Lincoln University (New Zealand)

Who is Lincoln University?

This major research university with a 140+ year history offers everything from various wine-related undergraduate degrees to doctorates.

What are the study programs and are they for me?

In the 3-year, bachelor’s students gain a sound understanding of basic science followed by advanced viticulture and wine science, pest and disease management, biometrics and wine chemistry. There’s also graduate diploma, honour’s bachelor, and Master’s program options in viticulture and oenology. Lincoln grants the following degrees:

Check their programs here

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

Northwest Wine Academy at South Seattle College (USA)

Who is the Northwest Wine Academy?

Established in Seattle in 2004, this is a community college where you can study in associate degree or certificate programs while also gaining practical experience in the Academy’s own winery producing around 1000 cases a year.

What are the wine course at the Academy and are they for me?

There are two broad emphases: Winemaking and Marketing & Sales. Certificates and degrees () can be earned in either area. The education is oriented towards wine professionals for the wine, food service, and hospitality industries. They also provide assistance with securing internships.

Check their courses here

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

Washington State University, Wine Science Center (USA)

Who is Washington State University?

This major research university offers scientific and hands-on approach to winemaking and grape growing, preparing students for careers in the dynamic wine-producing regions of the Pacific Northwest and the global wine industry. Students apply classroom knowledge and gain practical experience through required internships in vineyards and wineries. These internships and other applied learning activities like field trips, student research, projects, and volunteer opportunities also provide students with critical networking opportunities where they make connections that translate to the job market.

What are WSU’s programs and are they for me?

A 2+2 program gives students a platform to create their own unique learning experience. Two campuses provide students with the flexibility of beginning their journey on the Pullman or the Tri-Cities campus. A unique feature of this major is that students from each campus will come together to spend their last two years in the Tri-Cities, home to the Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center, among the most technologically advanced wine research facilities in the world.

Degree programs include:

  • Bachelor’s in Wine Business Management
  • Bachelor’s in Viticulture & Ecology
  • Advanced degrees involving various wine-related fields, from wine chemistry, economics, and soil quality to integrated pest management, up to the PhD level.
  • Certificates in Enology and Viticulture; you can also take specific courses one by one, in a self-directed manner, which can be done remotely. An example is Wine Sensory Evaluation.

Check their programs here

9. FAQs

Answering Your Questions about the World’s Best Wine Study Programs

YOU MAY STILL HAVE SPECIFIC QUESTIONS about the wine studies programs and classes included here. Based on the most common queries, we’ve put together these questions and answers, which should allow you to home in on the right wine programme for your requirements!

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

What does WSET stand for ?

WSET is the acronym of The Wine and Spirit Education Trust.

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

What is WSET wine certification ?

The WSET, or The Wine and Spirit Education Trust, is the world’s leader in wine education. Established in 1969 to increase professional knowledge and skills in the UK Wine Trade, it’s now expanded worldwide; WSET qualifications are recognised and respected from the UK to Australia.

After the curriculum was changed in 2019, spirits are now taught as a series of separate qualifications. The WSET has their flagship school in London.

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

How difficult is WSET level 1 ?

This entry-level course is designed for absolute beginners whilst still covering a lot of ground. It introduces the Systematic Approach to Tasting method, the basics of grape-growing and winemaking and tasting the 8 major grapes of the world as well as the parts of the world where they’re famous. Food and wine pairings and information about service is included, finishing with a 45-minute multiple choice examination with 30 questions.

If you’re new to wine and want to build from the ground up, this one-day course is perfect for you. It’s also a great boost for your CV if you’re looking to grow in the world of hospitality.

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return
The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

What is WSET level 2 ?

This is the intermediate WSET Course and builds on knowledge from Level 1, though it’s possible to start here as well for students with existing wine experience. It steps up a great deal and whilst it is designed to be taught over 2 intensive days, we find it better to stretch it out to 3; there’s a lot of material to cover! It goes into more detail on wine production and grape growing, whilst also more deeply covering regions, grapes and wine styles, including fortified wines and sparkling wines. It concludes with an hour-long, multiple choice examination of 50 questions.

If you’re new to wine and an enthusiastic student, this is a great way to get a robust introduction to the wine world. If you’re looking to make inroads into the wine industry or look to take a more serious role in hospitality, it all starts here.

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

Does WSET training make you a sommelier ?

No, a WSET certification does not make you a sommelier. There are other schools that offer specific sommelier training and qualifications.

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

What is the Wine Scholar Guild (WSG) ?

The Wine Scholar Guild is a recent addition to the world of wine education, founded in 2005 to produce specific programs focusing on individual countries and topics. In contrast to the WSET, this means a much more intense focus and deeper content with a narrower scope, usually focused on the wines of a country (France, Italy and Spain).

The WSG courses explore the wines of a particular county in detail, covering more regions, grapes and styles than you would see at the WSET Diploma Level. As a result, expect to see a less about winemaking and a lot more of a detail-oriented approach to the specifics of the country! There are also specific study programmes on French wine regions like Champagne and Bordeaux, called Master-Level. 

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

What if you pass all three wine scholar guild Wine Scholar courses ?

Studying with the Wine Scholar Guild is a great way to really dig deep into a single country, and turn it into a point of expertise. Whilst they’re wonderful courses, they work far better in conjunction with a WSET qualification, so you can use knowledge of winemaking, grape growing and other factors to understand the information more clearly.

These courses are perfect for anyone with a strong passion for the wines of a particular country and for advanced students who want to enhance their overall knowledge. However, there is no overarching qualification given for passing all three Spain, Italy, and France wine courses.

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return
The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

What is the Court of Master Sommeliers ?

The Court of Master Sommeliers is a British wine institution, founded in 1977, though it has far more of a presence in the USA today. Much like the WSET it was founded with the intention of improving the professional capabilities of the wine trade, but with a particular focus on the service of wine in the hospitality industry.

The focus at the Court of Master Sommeliers is very heavily wine focused, though because of its focus on training professional sommeliers you can also expect to cover information about food and wine pairings, spirits and even cigars.

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

How many levels are in the Court of Master Sommeliers ?

There are four CMS levels.

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

What about the waitlist for the Court of Master Sommeliers introductory class ?

The Court of Master Sommeliers is a prestigious institution and increasingly well-known across the world. Due to the limited nature of their courses, beginning can be difficult and costly, particularly as travel is usually required to reach the locations of courses and exams. If you’re an aspiring or current sommelier and your focus is entirely on a customer-serving role in the hospitality industry, these courses are designed for you.

  • The examination consists of 70 multiple-choice questions reflecting the content of the course and workbook and must be completed within 45 minutes. A minimum score of 60% is required to earn the certificate.
  • The number of students that get in from the waitlist depends on cancellations. Typically, if students cancel it is at least 30 days prior to the program. If a seat becomes available, notification is sent via email.
The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

Can I be enrolled in a CMS program and on a waitlist ?

Yes, you can be enrolled in a program and be on as many waitlists as you would like. Should a seat open up from the waitlist, and you accept the seat, your payment will be transferred over.

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return
The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

Is there a fee if I cancel from the CMS waitlist or decline a seat when offered to me ?

No.

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

How long does it take to become a Master of Wine ?

There are three stages to the programme, and the minimum time it takes to qualify as an MW is three years. However, most students take longer, either to have a break during their studies, to refine their tasting skills or to re-sit exams. Each stage of the programme takes place within a limited timeframe.

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

What is the difference between Master of Wine and Master Sommelier ?

he Masters of Wine program is intended for people primarily in the wine trade industry, and is more theoretical, whereas the Master Sommelier program is intended more for beverage service in a restaurant setting, including specific training on the areas of “tasting, theory, and service.”

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

How much does a Master Sommelier make ?

Those with a Master Sommelier title earn a median salary of $164,000. This is the fourth and final sommelier certification from the Court of Master Sommeliers. This is quite a leap up from the next level down.

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return
The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

What is CSW certification ?

This is a wine qualification: Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW). The CSW Exam is rigorous, testing a candidate’s wine knowledge and mastery of key elements within the worlds of viticulture and wine production. This verifies an appropriate education recognized both by the public and one’s peers.

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

How hard is the CSW exam ?

he Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) Exam is a rigorous exam, which tests a candidate’s wine knowledge and mastery of key elements within the worlds of viticulture and wine production. The exam has 100 multiple-choice questions, with all question content drawn exclusively from the CSW Study Guide. Candidates have one hour to complete the exam.

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

What does SDEN stand for ?

SDEN stands for Stichting Dranken Examens en Normering, which translates as Foundation for Drinks Exams and Standards.

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

What is the difference between WSET and SDEN ?

Let’s start with the obvious difference. WSET is a British training, but now active and known worldwide. SDEN is a Dutch education.  The SDEN-3 course gives students a good foundation. It focuses on hard facts about wine, which is important. You first need that basic knowledge like: Which wines fall under AOC Entre-Deux-Mers? What is Condrieu? Does Germany have more or less vineyard area than Sicily?

At WSET-3 you learn to make industry connections. It also goes much deeper into viticulture, pruning techniques and vinification methods than SDEN. The level is higher than SDEN-3. So SDEN or WSET? The choice is yours, but why not both?

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return
The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

What is SDEN 1 ?

The SDEN level 1 exam is intended as an introduction to wine for people who want to know more about wine professionally or personally. The SDEN level 1 exam is intended for employees in the catering industry, in a supermarket wine department, in the wine trade/liquor store or a wholesaler. This exam is also suitable for the private wine lover.

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

How long does it take to become a certified sommelier ?

It depends on you! That being said, expect most certification programs to take one year or more, some as long as three years.

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

What are the best wine certifications ?

For general wine knowledge, including for the wine trade these include WSET Levels 2-4, SDEN Levels 2-5, the Society of Wine Educators HBSC, CSW, and CWE. WSET 4 (Diploma) and SDEN 5 are very well respected, advanced credentials.

For becoming a sommelier (expert in wine and drinks service) or wine server, the HBSC, at a basic level, as well as the Court of Master Sommeliers Levels 1-4, the International Sommeliers Guild Levels 1-4, George Brown College, and the Cordon Bleu’s Diploma in Wine, Gastronomy and Management.

Finally, for focused wine studies by country or (French) region, the Wine Scholar’s Guild “Wine Scholar” and “Master-Level” qualifications.

If you want to study wine business management, look at Sonoma State University’s Wine Business Institute, Kedge, and the University of Adelaide.

For technical education in winemaking and viticulture, various universities listed above have degree programs, of which University of California, Davis, offers an online course. University of Adelaide is tops as well.

The pinnacle of learning for wine theory and practical wine evaluation is the Institute of Masters of Wine Master of Wine (MW) qualification, which takes a minimum of three years of mostly self-guided study accompanied by rigorous exams and a thesis.

The Definitive Guide to Wine Education - Rack and Return

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