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A sommelier, also known as a wine steward, is a trained wine professional. Sommeliers traditionally work in fine restaurants, but they may also work in hotels, at wineries, and as teachers, and they might even own a wine shop.
As wine continues to gain popularity, this education track is highly sought out. Becoming a sommelier is a highly regarded career for those who are deeply passionate about wine. There are a number of different organizations that offer vigorous study in exchange for sommelier certification. And today, some of the best courses can be taken right in the comfort of your own home. Curious? Here are our picks for the best online sommelier classes.
Best Online Sommelier Classes of 2021
Why We Chose It: This well-rounded program is suited for both enophiles and professionals.
What We Like
Range of levels
What We Don’t Like:
Online and pricing options vary by location
If you’re looking for a reputable organization that meets you exactly where you’re at in your wine education journey, you can’t go wrong with the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET). The organization is one of the most well-regarded in the world, with its headquarters in London and courses offered in 70 countries and in 15 languages.
We love WSET's wide range of classes. If you have little to no wine knowledge, you don’t have to be intimated here. Start with Level 1, a low-pressure beginner class that will give you a fantastic starting point. If you already have a basic understanding of wine, you can skip to Level 2, which is a much more comprehensive class but no less approachable. For there, Levels 3 and 4 are much more rigorous. You’ll gain certification at every level, so you can stop when you feel you’ve obtained the knowledge needed. WSET is well-suited for those both looking to work in the wine industry and those who are simply passionate about wine and would like to better their education with a reputable program without any set plan to work in the industry.
The program is offered through over 800 third-party course providers, known as Approved Programme Providers (APPs). Head to WSET’s website to find a location near you. Since it’s run through private institutions, pricing varies and some providers offer more online courses than others.
Why We Chose It: This industry favorite will give you a solid foundation if you’re hoping to work in the field of wine.
What We Like
What We Don’t Like
Quite costly at the higher levels
Like WSET, the International Sommelier Guild (ISG) is an incredibly well-regarded institution in the wine industry. While WSET is great for both casual enophiles and industry professionals, ISG is specially tailored to the latter. If your goal is to work as a sommelier in a restaurant, wine shop, or other areas, ISG might be an even better fit for you.
ISG also divides its program into levels, starting with the Intermediate Wine Certificate (IWC) and ending at the ISGM Sommelier and ISGM Sommelier Degree. While the entry-level course is quite approachable, the higher tiers are indeed rigorous. The highest degree not only involves advanced wine study, but also hospitality components, nutrition, and wine business management, and you’re required to submit a 10,000-word dissertation in addition to passing the exam. Luckily, you’re able to gain certification at every tier, so you can stop where you choose to.
Even though courses are offered at sites around the world as well as online, prices are pretty much standardized. The highest level course, however, can set you back more than $13,000 for the online course.
Why We Chose It: Their individualized approach that allows you to study what you want, when you want.
What We Like
What We Don’t Like
Many study resources cost extra
If you have a specific goal in mind from the get-go, say to become a wine educator or a specialist who is especially well-suited to work in the hospitality industry as a whole, the Society of Wine Educators (SWE) might be your best choice. The organization's program is highly individualized, offering certifications such as Hospitality/Beverage Specialist (HBSC), Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW), and Certified Specialist of Spirits (CSS). After you’re on one of these tracks, you can then branch off to educator certifications.
Unlike many institutions, SWE is entirely self-study; you’ll purchase the exam and complete it online. This is great if you’re an independent learner or have a schedule that doesn’t allow for a more formalized program.
Every option is priced a la carte. You’ll pay for the exam, study guide, workbook, and practice quizzes, and even an exam extension separately, all of which can quickly add up. However, if you become a member of SWE for $135 per year, you’ll receive a significant discount on the price of the exam, which is worth it if you plan on completing multiple certifications within the institution.
Why We Chose It: Wine Scholar Guild provides a deep-dive approach into a specific wine-producing country or region.
What We Like
Tailored to your interests
What We Don't Like
Not for beginners
Less expansive than others
Instead of offering a generalized study on wine, Wine Scholar Guild narrows in on specific wine-producing countries and regions. You can choose to gain certification as a French, Italian, or Spanish wine scholar. Or if you’d like your focus to be even more specialized, there are programs tailored to seven specific wine regions in France, such as Champagne and Bordeaux.
Unlike other institutions, Wine Scholar Guild does recommend that you have a basic knowledge of wine before entering one of its courses, given that they’re so focused. That makes this program a great add-on to other more generalized courses if you’re particularly excited about one certain country or region or if the focus would be an asset to your work in the wine industry.
You can choose to participate in an online course or complete self-study in preparation for your selected certification exam. Prices vary depending on which approach you take, but all include study manuals and other resources such as practice quizzes and a Q&A forum.
If you have dreams of becoming a sommelier, there are several highly regarded institutions that will help make your wish a reality. But even if you don’t plan on working in the wine industry, these instructive programs can give you an incredibly solid foundation that will make you a confident wine drinker and feed your curiosity. Wine and Spirits Education Trust is good for all levels and interests. International Sommeliers Guild will give you a formalized step into the wine industry. Society of Wine Educators allows you to study what you want on your own time. And Wine Scholar Guild gives you a chance to take a deep dive into a specific wine-producing country or region.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Online Sommelier Courses Only Intended for Those Looking to Work in the Wine Industry?
Many courses are geared toward people who are passionate about wine but don’t plan to work in the industry—they simply want to gain a more formalized education. Other professionals, such as journalists, chefs, and others in the hospitality industry, may find value in these programs as well.
How Much Do Online Sommelier Courses Cost?
The cost varies depending on the institution, the format of the course, and the level of study.
How We Chose the Best Online Sommelier Classes
There are a number of reputable online sommelier classes available. To select the very best, we opted for those that are widely available nationwide, acknowledged in the wine industry, and fit a broad range of needs. We also focused on platforms that are either fully online or have options to study and become certified online.