Getting Started with Wine Education
Written by Missa Capozzo, Director of Sommology on January 16, 2019
Have you ever thought about learning more about wine? Maybe you attended one of our wine tastings, and were inspired by the magic of food and wine pairing. Perhaps you’ve always had a secret wish to become the world’s top scholar on Pinot Noir. Or, maybe you just want to wow your friends the next time you’re out to dinner by correctly pronouncing Gewürztraminer. We’re here to help! We went to an expert to get advice on getting started with wine education! Our Director of Sommology, Missa Capozzo, started her wine journey as a Wine Guide with Traveling Vineyard. Today, she holds many certifications in wine studies and has made a career out of her love for food and wine. When it comes to wine education, she says, start by asking yourself one important question: what do you want to do with your wine education? Here’s more from Missa!
I am often asked how and where one can begin to expand their wine knowledge. There are several avenues one can choose to take, but it helps to first ask yourself exactly what you wish to accomplish. Do you want to work in a restaurant or in the service industry? Perhaps you wish to work in sales, either retail or distribution. Maybe you wish to be an educator or brand ambassador. More commonly, people simply want to be a more educated hobbyist.
You want to work in the restaurant/service industry: A sommelier is a knowledgeable wine professional, usually working in fine dining restaurants, who provides superior service to the guests. The Court of Master Sommeliers (CMS) provides this fine-tuned education with a heavy focus on service. They offer four levels of education/certification: Level 1 Introductory, Level 2 Certified, Level 3 Advanced, and Level 4 Master. There are currently less than 300 Master Sommeliers worldwide.
If your goal is to become an educator: I highly suggest both the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) and the Society of Wine Educators (SWE). The WSET offers four levels of wine education. The WSET1 is very basic and quite easy to pass. The WSET2 gets a bit more detailed, but provides a great overview of the world of wine. The WSET3 Advanced is where it starts to get very difficult. This exam includes a 50-question multiple choice portion, a four-unit short answer portion, and a two-wine blind tasting portion. You must pass each unit of the WSET3 to move on to the WSET Diploma, which is a multi-year, multi-unit program and prerequisite to continue to the highly coveted Master of Wine (MW).
There are several avenues one can choose to take, but it helps to first ask yourself exactly what you wish to accomplish.
The Society of Wine Educators offers two wine certifications, the CSW (Certified Specialist of Wine) and the CWE (Certified Wine Educator). Although the CSW exam is all multiple choice, the level of difficulty is on par with the WSET3 Advanced.
Many people who choose wine sales as their avenue choose the curriculum of the WSET2 and WSET3 Advanced, as well as the CSW. This level of education is certainly not necessary for wine sales, as most companies will provide excellent training. These certifications are, however, wonderful ways to dive very deep into the entire world of wine.
Perhaps you wish to be a Brand Ambassador or simply immerse yourself in a specific country: The Wine Scholar Guild provides incredible curriculums in France, Italy, and just recently Spain. Passing these exams will result in becoming a certified FWS (French Wine Scholar), IWS (Italian Wine Scholar), and SWS (Spanish Wine Scholar).
If you wish to gain more wine knowledge on your own time and terms as a hobbyist, the best place to begin is as a Traveling Vineyard Wine Guide! I became a Wine Guide in 2014 with no wine knowledge whatsoever. Becoming a Wine Guide gave me the opportunity to learn on the job at my own pace and explore advanced options at my leisure. Currently, I hold various certifications, including the WSET2 and WSET3 Advanced, the FWS, the CMS1, and BWSEd (Boston Wine School Educator). I have taken the CSW course and will soon take the exam as I continue to embrace my passion for wine education for years to come!
Do you have a question about wine? Interested in learning more about our training program as a Wine Guide? Reach out anytime to chat with us, and be sure to follow us on Facebook for a look at the #wineguidelife!