Erin Doman on April 8, 2015 4 Comments Some people have a natural love affair with wine. This extends beyond drinking wine and includes using wine for cooking, frequently visiting wineries, and hoarding vintage unopened bottles. If this fits your description, and you want to be a wine connoisseur who can determine a wine’s ingredients, origin, and approximate alcohol content with a mere sip, then becoming a sommelier may be your calling. Like mastership in any other area of life, this is a field that requires training and direct experience. 1. Train Your Palate A good sommelier should have a sensitive palate that can accurately determine a type of wine just by their sense of taste or smell. This skill can only be acquired from direct experience and is not something that can be learned exclusively in a classroom or from a textbook. With plenty of hands-on training, you might be able to learn how to distinguish the texture and flavor between, say, vanilla and clove. During your many trial phases of wine tasting, be sure to take lots of notes, especially when you notice a distinct flavor of a particular wine. While sipping the wine, swish it in your mouth and be aware of any notable texture. Learn the difference between lush or creamy textures in wine, and the differences between light and crisp taste. Note if the wine is smooth, heavy, or tannic. When you swallow the sip, be mindful of the aftertaste. Does the finish feel smooth or aggressive? Does it inspire you to take another sip? 2. Learn Key Wine Regions The U.S., Spain, France, Argentina and Italy are the top wine producers of the world. However, it is important to become familiar with these other features: The specific state, county, or district of a nation where the top distilleries are located The type of wine each of these areas produces Any unique ingredients used in this region Any specific brewing methods used The economic side of the wine business and its impact on the local region’s product If possible, visit these regions yourself. Many wineries provide guided tours that include wine sampling and talks with the distillery workers. If traveling isn’t a feasible option for you, then visit your local bookstore and read up on the top brands from around the world. 3. Learn to Properly Pour and Serve Wine Being a walking encyclopedia on the subject of wine is impressive, but it’s not the sole hallmark of a sommelier. Part of the job also entails becoming an expert wine server. This goes beyond the duties of just bartending. You may be expected to uncork and serve the bottle in a certain way that exudes grace and finesse, and this style might differ between regions of the world. It may help to read up on hospitality and serving etiquette to ensure that the entire elegant effect is accurately created. 4. Build Your Experience Try finding work or apprenticeship as a server in an industry that serves wine, such as at a restaurant, bar, hotel, or catering service. While such a position may seem like a step down–especially if you already have a decent career in another field of work–keep in mind that you have to start small before you become a master in anything. The hospitality industry is essentially a sommelier boot camp where you are able to gain first-hand experience. This is also the period where you will quickly realize whether this industry is something you could feasibly pursue as a career. 5. Acquire Certification For the record, formal schooling or certification is not necessary to work in the field. However, having the training and a certificate to show for it certainly elevates your status and puts you above the competition. There are plenty of sommelier courses available for you to take, with some basic ones frequently offered at community colleges. Keep in mind that a legitimate course requires hands-on training in a brick-and-mortar setting. Be wary of courses that claim the material can be completed completely online. Being around the product and able to smell and taste the product is more important than anything you can read on an online course. Furthermore, a legitimate course can be characterized by its association with a genuine organization in the wine or culinary field. Most sommelier courses also offer various options depending what your aspirations are. This may include advanced courses that teach about wine as it pertains to specific geographical regions. There may also be classes tailored for those who wish to work in a managerial position in a cellar or related sector. Typical sommelier classes may include the following: The history of wine, dependent on location or time period Decantation importance and styles Wine branding and marketing A global perspective on the wine industry Wine making in a weak economy Be sure to do your research and pick a program that caters to your needs and desired career path. 6. Acquire General Wine Knowledge Aside from working in the industry and getting certified, there are other tidbits of information that you should know if you want to be considered an expert in all things wine. Aside from wine tasting, you should also have a solid knowledge of the following: Wine pairing with specific types of food, such as meats and vegetables How to cook with wine How to mix wine, including both good and bad combinations How to properly store wine How to preserve the quality of opened bottles What temperature specific wines should be served Where to acquire rare and vintage wines A Sommelier as a Profession If you take a keen interest in anything related to wine, then a profession as a sommelier may be right up your alley. Be sure to maintain realistic expectations and keep in mind that it requires intricate knowledge. This is a competitive field to break into, and there is no room for dips in knowledge or experience if you want to be successful. If you have the passion and a healthy hunger to learn the trade, then a rewarding profession may await you.