The Definitive Guide: How To Become A Sommelier

Published on: 23 Oct 2018
sommelier hero

What is a Sommelier??

Have you got a thirst for wine?

In short, a sommelier is a specially trained wine waiter. You will need to be truly passionate about wine in order to become a good and successful sommelier. There is a lot of hard work involved in this job role. It’s not just about wine tasting and pouring the odd glass.

As a sommelier you must strive to go above and beyond expectations each day. The job involves extremely long hours – by the time a sommelier gets home it could be anywhere from 2am to 5am, before having to wake up early and start all over again.

As a sommelier you will typically work in a fine dining establishment, recommending wines to customers (as well as other beverages depending on the customers’ preference). You will need to have knowledge of wine and how beverages work alongside food.

It takes months of studying and practice to develop the palate and years of experience to become an advanced or a master sommelier.

It may not be as glamorous as you had thought, but if you are truly interested in wine, keen to learn more each day and excited to share your knowledge with others, then this job role is definitely for you.

  • Job Description

    So, what does a sommelier actually do? Mornings are typically spent at events and tastings. A huge chunk of the job is constantly educating yourself about wine. It is important to always keep learning, researching and gaining knowledge of industry trends.

    Day to day: After your morning of studying or attending events, you will be expected to go to the restaurant to accept wine deliveries, restock the cellars, prepare bottles of wine for the evening and order more if needed. The evening will then consist of recommending, educating and serving customers.

    After a long evening of serving customers, sommeliers will be expected to put wine away, clean all ice buckets, polish glasses and decanters and restock bottles for the following day.

    Other tasks include working alongside the chef in order to pair wine with certain dishes and develop wine lists. You will also be required to occasionally train restaurant staff.

  • Hours of Work

    This career is not for you if you get tired quickly and complain about being on your feet for too long. You will spend the majority of your shift standing; as well as lifting heavy boxes of wine and moving stock. You will be required to work late nights and some early mornings – including weekends and public holidays. Outside of restaurant opening hours, you will need to be dedicated to researching and learning. If you slip behind on the trends, you won’t be familiar with the best wines, which could hinder your career.

  • Main Responsibilities

    What will your core duties be as a sommelier? This list will give you an insight into what will be expected of you.

    • Planning the wine menu
    • Serving and advising customers
    • Making recommendations
    • Decanting wines
    • Educating customers
    • Researching trends
    • Ordering and maintaining stock
    • Developing wine lists
    • Managing staff training
    • Working alongside chefs
    • Testing wine
    • Attending industry events and tastings
    • Cleaning and polishing equipment
    • Organisational skills– especially when keeping tabs on the wine inventory

Key Sommelier Qualifications

So, now you know what a sommelier does, but what qualifications will you need to give yourself a fair shot at landing this job?

There are many accredited associations that you can study with which will set you up for the sommelier world. It is important to do your research to ensure that you choose the right course for you. For example, it may be important to you that the qualification you receive is internationally recognised. Here are some of the qualifications that you could look into:

sommelier education

As in any other qualification, there are different levels you can work towards. Of course, the higher the level you achieve, the higher your salary is likely to be.

  • Level 1: Sommelier intro
  • Level 2: Certified sommelier
  • Level 3: Advanced sommelier
  • The highest level: Master sommelier

Vital Sommelier Skills

You will need to have a profound appreciation and desire for wine. The key skills you will need to have a thriving career are:

  • Approachability
  • Customer service skills
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Well presented
  • Good listening skills
  • Ability to teach
  • Drive
  • Drive
  • Good memory
  • Good research skills
  • Concentration
  • Knowledge in the field
  • Open mindedness about customer preferences
  • Sales skills

What is a Sommelier’s Salary?

Now we’re getting down to the nitty gritty…

The starting salary for an inexperienced sommelier is £20,000, with salaries increasing up to £50,000 depending on the area that you work in, the restaurant and how much experience you have.

sommelier salary

How to become a Sommelier

If you don’t have any experience in this field, the first logical step would be to enroll yourself onto an accredited sommelier course. This will enhance your CV, as well as give you the fundamental knowledge that you will need to become a sommelier.

It could be a good idea to do an internship. Although most internships are unpaid, experience is invaluable and if you impress the employers, you could end up being offered a job.

Start small –Having a change of career and learning on the job could be an option for you. If you already work in the right environment such as a fine dining establishment as a waiter/waitressor a bartender, you could lookout for opportunities to learn more about becoming a sommelier and could bag yourself a job. It’s often about who you know. There are some skills that you will only learn on the job that a course or a diploma can’t teach you.

How to Develop a Sommelier Career

So, imagine for a second that you’ve been a Sommelier for some time – what next?

If you are up for a challenge, you could work your way towards becoming a master sommelier, which is the highest level of the profession. The Master Sommelier Diploma is one of the most challenging wine examinations, with only 249 people qualified in the world. Once qualified, you could earn up to £120,000 – Quite tempting isn’t it?

So there you have it; everything you need to set out on the road to a new Sommelier career!

Career Opportunities