What is a Sommelier?

You might be wondering – ‘What the heck is a Sommelier (Somm) and why do I care if they picked this wine?’ Don’t worry, you’re not alone! Many people ask that same question, and since Somms select many of the bottles of wine we sell, we thought it was time we answered your questions. You’ll find the answers to those and more questions about Sommeliers and Master Sommeliers in this post.

What is a Sommelier?

A Sommelier is a trained wine professional who has studied for and passed the Certified Sommelier Exam.  During their training they study the regions, grape varietals, preparation methods, specific country rules governing wine production, and so much more. Their training and test also include how to properly recommend and serve wines in a restaurant setting.

How do I become one?

If you’re interested in becoming a Sommelier, the Court of Master Sommeliers website has an overview of the path you can take to become a Certified Sommelier. After learning the basics, you must pass your Introductory and Certified Sommelier exams. From there you can move on to the Advanced Sommelier exam and finally the Master Sommelier Exam.

Why trust a Sommelier?

Think of them like the doctors or lawyers of wine. They’ve studied the subject in depth – sometimes for years, poured and sipped thousands of wines, practiced wine service for hours on end, and finally passed a very difficult multi-part exam. They are trained with the skill set and knowledge to answer your questions, provide guidance on food pairings, or suggest something based on your likes and dislikes.

The other key factor – they understand what makes a particular wine a ‘good wine’. Where you or I might say it’s a good wine because we personally like it, a Sommelier understands that a particular wine might be a great representation of the grape and region, even if they don’t personally like that varietal. This quality, along with their extensive training, make them a great resource when experimenting with new wines.

What’s the difference between a Certified Sommelier and a Master Sommelier?

The short answer – hours of research, study, and tasting. If you’ve seen the movie SOMM, you understand the life-altering level of study it takes to pass the Master Sommelier Exam. After passing the Certified Sommelier exam you’ll move on to the Advanced Sommelier exam. After passing that exam you’re ready to tackle the Master Sommelier exam. It often requires years of study and sometimes multiple tries at the exam before succeeding. In 2015, Thrillist listed the pass rate at just 8%.

We hope you enjoyed this overview about Sommeliers! If you’re still curious about Somms and what they do, purchase a weekly wine tasting to watch our experts try and discuss red and white wine styles from around the world.

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