Discussions and questions (vintages, winemaking, etc) for those ITB. All are welcome to post.
31 posts • Page 1 of 1
As a part of my (now long term) endeavor to make the jump from the footwear biz (marketing and sales) to the wine biz, I've been doing everything I can to beef-up my resume with wine related stuff. I've already taken some wine business classes at the SSU extension, and am currently consulting with a winery on a website redesign. But recently I've seen a few posts on WineJobs.com that mention a Court of Master Sommeliers/Masters of Wine/WSET as being desired credentials. Given that I don't see the job market opening-up any time soon (especially for noobs to the industry), I'm thinking this might be the perfect time to put some effort into this.
So for someone who has a background in marketing and sales and is looking for something roughly equivalent in the wine industry, which certification would you recommend?? After looking at each website, I have reservations about each route:
Court of Master Sommeliers - I have zero service experience, so anything but the first intro test is a scary proposition for me.
Masters of Wine - The website is vague about about the steps involved, there seems to be no intermediary tests - just the main certificate after (what they say) is three years of intensive study.
WSET - They have several levels (I'm really only interested in basic/intermediate classes to put on a resume), but from the way I read it the tests for even the online classes are only available at their office in London, and international travel for some thing like this is not a possibility for me.
Can anyone shed some light on this? In your opinion, are these certifications (basic/intermediate) worth the expense and time for someone like myself with the goal breaking into the industry?
MHO's, for what they're worth:
MS - lack of service experience will be a problem. It really is a kind of service-related qualification. Most of the MS's I know are working for distributors (mostly to run education and because they can relate well to buyers/somms) or are buyers themselves.
MW - real long haul. It will be tough and expensive. A lot of people who have been doing this a long time would still have a lot of trouble passing these exams. This might be something to pursue once you enter the industry and have done it for a while (and can get someone to sponsor it). If someone did it in three years, that would be doing quite well. I think if these sorts of certifications are your thing, I would consider this sort of the PhD.
WSET - I think this is very useful to careers, and probably a great place to start. A couple of levels will really help the CV. I'm not sure why it would say you can only take tests in London? A couple of friends just took one of the exams locally; not sure where exactly, but it didn't sound like they were going too far. Very doable.
Last edited by N Weis on June 23rd 2009, 4:37pm, edited 1 time in total.
Nate, thanks for your insight!
After some more digging on the WSET front, it looks like there is a WSET school in that holds classes in Napa and Sonoma - http://www.wineandspiritschool.com/
Looks like $2000 to take the Intermediate and Advanced courses. It is somewhat tempting to just skip the intermediate course and go strait to the advanced (I just aced the practice test they have on the website), but it's typically the little things you learn that make the difference - especially given that I'm trying to make a carrier out of this!
Thanks again for your help! I agree that the MoW route seems WAY to expensive and involved, but I may eventually take the Intro MS course - just so I can tell all my friends "I know what I'm talking about, I'm a Sommelier!"
I looked into the WSET and MW. The levels of the WSET are needed to move into the MW program. It doesn't come right out and say it but I did do some digging and found it. I got the books for the Intermediate and Advanced courses, there was a big jump in the amount of info between the two and I could never really make up my mind if the Intermediate was needed or not. I would be interested in hearing your feedback if you do take the classes.
Craig Brautigam - ITB Grand Cru
I took the Level 1 MS exam last year and am thinking about doing level 2 (Certified somm). My background in wine consisted of me buying, drinking, and going on wine boards. No restaurant experience whatsoever. The test is supposed to have a 90% pass rate but the Master Sommeliers, who were giving out our exam, said my "class" didn't do as well haha.
I would say almost all of the people taking the exam work in the wine biz already. Tons of high end restaurant servers, etc. They have a sign in sheet where you can see which companies people worked at:
John X ......Guy Savoy
Z Hu ....JP Morgan Chase Bank
It was actually a really cool experience and for less than $500, I would recommend the 2 day intro class and exam.
Z H I
I just finished the Diploma level classes this spring. Although I took the majority of the classes at COPIA (may it rest in peace) you can contact Adam Chase of Grape Experience (http://www.grapeexperience.com) to inquire about taking the classes in SF or Napa/Sonoma area. He administers the APP locations around here and is certified by WSET London.
I believe you need to pass the Advanced level in order to take Diploma, but you are not required to sit the classes--you can simply sit the exam, pass it with flying colors and go on to the Diploma level. Personally, I love my WSET experience because it forces you to become a methodical taster of everything from scotch to sparkling and you meet people from all aspects of the industry, from winemakers to distributor reps and everyone in between.
Feel free to PM me if you have specific questions about the program--Best of luck!
On a somewhat related topic: Has anyone sat the CWS or CWE exam? I am toying with taking it in the fall. At some point I'll have to stop getting wine certifications and just bite the bullet and go to grad school!
ITB, Dept. of Smoke and Mirrors.
There is an OIV class available at UC Davis this summer. http://extension.ucdavis.edu/unit/winemaking/course/listing/?unit=WINE&prgList=OIV&coursearea=OIV+Wine+Marketing+Program If it's full, put it on your calendar for next year. I took the class about 10 years ago and the relevance to the industry is great.
I have passed the intro and certification to the Court of Master Sommeliers. I wish I had taken them when I was pounding the pavement as the extra info could have been helpful. I think some real world experience in restaurants will also help you understand the needs of what restaurant buyers are looking to accomplish. One of my best friends just took his last WSET exam and has landed himself a great job but he had 5+ years tasting room experience. If I were to do it over again and wanted to pursue the sales side (outside of restaurants) I would do the WSET in pursuit of the MOW which will help you understand the import/export side of the biz as well as creating an understanding of the channels of distribution.
Best of Luck!
Geoff Williams, ITB
There are basically three routes that carry clout in the industry: CoMS, WSET/MW & Society of Wine Educators. There are other programs out there that may be very good but they don't carry the same weight.
The Court of Master Sommeliers is clearly service oriented. A lot of it is based on thinking quickly on your feet, making good decisions and basically handling anything a guest could possibly throw at you with aplomb. It's a great program and somms are a very supportive group. The levels progress pretty much exponentially. Intro is a taste of what it's about. You get to meet some MSs, learn how to taste and you get a nice pin but they tell you at the end that you aren't really a somm just because you passed intro. Certified is a working level where you feel like you become part of the family. Advanced means you're a serious bad-ass and MS is full-on rock star status. Many restaurants will re-imburse for the courses and there are scholarships available for the higher levels.
WSET/MW is preferred by the retail/distributor side. It's heavy on theory and tasting with orientation toward the business side. The various certifications help to get better jobs with distributors, importers and vendors. Most large distributors will pay for their reps to progress along this path. MW is like a PhD with very long free-form essays and extended tasting sessions (this year's test is on Jancis' website). It's pretty-much impossible for an MW to not be successful in any realm as you need to know everything from farming and production to marketing and sales.
SWE is a well respected program and might be the best for collectors and non-professionals. Many who follow the MS or MW paths pick this up along the way. Certified Specialist of Wine is about the same level as Certified sommelier and is well regarded. Certified Wine Educator is the top level and is a serious certification although maybe not quite the level of MS/MW it's a well respected accomplishment and can be achieved faster than the others with less expense. They add a cool twist to their tasting by making you identify flaws in wine as well as origin/variety/etc.
Good luck and if you're studying check out http://www.thevinofiles.com. It's an amazing resource.
Thanks to everyone for their comments! Sounds like the WSET is what I was looking for. Now I just need to decide which classes will work with my schedule.
For those familiar with the program, can you recommend any reading that would help in preparing for the intermediate and advanced courses?
I have been though both the CWE and WSET Diploma programs
I skipped the Intermediate Certificate.The WSET Advanced Certificate is comparable to the CWE exam. Except for the CWE there are no classes except for a one day prep course. The CSW has a text as well as on line learning modules. It might work for you.
The advanced certificate is changing this year from the format of the last 5 years. There will be more blind wines on the exam. The old format was one wine.
Here is a good description of the Advanced from phillywine.com an approved program provider in Philly who I teach WSET for.
Here is a list of Approved Program Providers in the US.
You can always take the courses home study, That is how I did the Diploma.
The Diploma is much more difficult compared to the Advanced Cert. it's like getting a Masters Degree in wine with the MW a PhD.
Books to use for the Advanced Cerificate
They also provide you with a text book and theroteically if it's not in the book it won't be on the exam.
I read widely outside the text knowing I was going to continue on to the Diploma.
For winemaking the book Understanding Winery Technology is the book used by the Diploma.
Here are a few more they are not neccessary for the Advanced but go beyond their text if you would like to study more.
Tom Stevenson Sotheby’s encyclopedia Also mandatory in my mind Excellent on viticulture plus regions as well
Tom Stevenson Christie’s Champagne Excellent
Tom Stevenson Alsace Excellent
Richard Smart Sunlight into Wine Excellent
John Radford The New Spain Excellent
Remmington Norman Rhone Renaissance Excellent
David Peppercorn Bordeaux OK
Anthony Hansen Burgundy Excellent first 150 pages once he gets into the regions there is little that I found useful
Nicholas Belfrage Barolo to Valpolicella Not organized the way I would like but packed with info never the less
Nicholas Belfrage Brunello to Zibibo same as above
Bruce Cass Oxford Companion to North America
Christopher Fielden Wines of South America (Not sure of the exact title)
Michael Cooper New Zealand Wine Atlas (Was not released in time, but a very good book)
Rosemary George Wines of the South of France (not sure of the exact title)
You will also need to know fortified wines inside and out.
Richard Mayson's book on Port and Madeira are essential. I don't klnow of a great Sherry book. The one by Jeffs is out of print.
You can alos go to the Cosejo Regalador for sherry on line
Let me know if you need anything else. I have been teaching the Advanced off and on since 2001, but I have been teaching tasting portion and grade the tasting papers since 2004 and Diploma since 2004
Erinn, What would you like to know. If you passed the Diploma you should be able to smoke the CWE. The only difficult part I believe is the tasting where they can mess you up. If you are serious PM me. I have some study procedures I have passed on to others that will help.
After doing some more research on the WSET, I came upon this today: http://www.no-wset-wine-course.com/
Any opinions/insight on this? I'm not expecting that an advanced level WSET certification to immediately yield a job, but I'd like to be sure that it's something that is respected in the industry.
It really depends on what type of job you want. If you're going to stick to corporate marketing or import/wholesale on-the-ground sales rep positions, the WSET Intermediate is a good benchmark and will definitely help. Sales & Marketing experience seem to be far more important than wine knowledge in those areas.
If you're considering retail, any knowledge you have is great and the certifications help, but the real money positions in retail are as a buyer. That skill set is really only learned on the job and honestly can take years to really figure out all of the intricacies and build the relationships which sometimes are paramount to getting what you want.
Purveyor of Plonk ITB--Retail
I have about nine years in the retail side and two years ago a past employer offered to pay for my WSET course. I jumped right into the Advanced course and passed it with a modest amount of effort. It's been helpful especially with regard to tasting and understanding old world wines, i.e. Burgs and Bdx. The fact that I didn't have to pay for it was a bonus!
"Bacon would improve the flavor of an angel"
"Outside of a dog a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read."
"We're a lot like licorice. Not everybody likes licorice, but the people who like licorice, really like licorice."
Thanks Brent. Yes, I'm definitely looking to make a 'lateral' move into corporate (or maybe not so corporate) marketing and sales. Looking past the fact that this is a very tough job market, I have found that the wine industry seems to have a tough time considering job applicants who don't have industry specific experience. As a result I've been doing everything I can to make my resume look like it belongs on the team. Proving wine knowledge is especially tough via resume which is why the WSET is looking like a good addition to make.
Someone has an axe to grind with the IWC NY by either a competing wine school or a disgruntled former student. There are many other proggrams being offered in the US by the ISG, Court of Master Sommeliers and the Society of Wine Educators. Why are there no claims against these organizations.
have a friend who is a MW, it took him 8+ yrs to get his certification, FYI.
~~ I T B ~~
it's easy to grin, when your ship comes in, and you've got the stock market beat...
Flame on, I'm gone
I'm so sweet like a nice bon bon
Came out rapping when I was born
Mom said rock it 'til the break of dawn
Steve the current regimen for the MW is you have 5 years to get though it than they kick you out. 2 years mandatory in the MW school before you will be permitted to sit the exam then 3 years to pass. This changed about 4-5 years ago.
I agree with the majority. WSET is your best bet.
You have to pass WSET Level 3 (Advanced) to enter Level 4 (Diploma). Frankly I'd be surprised at anybody outside the Wine trade or without some really serious time and money on their hands and a large number of experience and years studying regions, techniques and blind tasting passing MW without going through at least the WSET Advanced & Diploma.
If you are a complete novice with little experience about regions, viticulture, vinification (still, sparkling, fortified and spirits) and vine diseases as well as use and abuse of alcohol then you need to debate whether to jump in on WSET level 3 (Advanced) or get a feel by taking WSET level 2 (higher) first.
I jumped straight in on Level 3 last Autumn and passed the January 09 exam. However I've been seriously interested in wine since 1996, travelled to many countries and several continents to tour & taste at wineries, read books on Terroir, Regions, Grapes and basic vinification so I had a head start for level 3. Several delegates studying with me work in Wine Retail and had passed WSET level 2 first but found the amount of technical facts and rigid blind tasting for the level 3 too hard and a real step up from level 2. That is not to say I'm better than the other delegates, just better read and prepared on the subject. I think this is the key to level 3.
I plan to study for the WSET level 4 diploma since it builds on the level 3 knowledge but compares regions and wines more as well as having more tasting assessments (blind and part qualified). Before I start the course I need to clear my social diary and do some serious reading prior to studying so I'm well prepared.
Hope this helps?
my experience has been that since buyers from restaurants are usually sommeliers, they hold MS and MoW designations in a higher regard. Then there are people with no designations at all but have been in the business for years and know everything about wine and then some, so it's difficult to make broad/general rules. Lots of sommeliers take the WSET in concurrence with their MS or MoW or CWE.
Where do you live? Nola Palomar is offering 20% off WSET classes for a Spanish wine 3-day intensive course going from July-August. It's a great start.
http://www.spainwines.es/en/calendar.php is the website to register, the code to get the discount is: VELETA
hi-time wine cellars
I assume you have the WSET Advanced text book, I'm afraid anything in here could come up. I can't advise you how to revise, my technique is to re-write course notes in an abreviated form which, though painful, helps the information stick for me.
Make sure you know your basics of viticulture and the various styles of vinification in detail (white/red still, sparkling and fortified).
Be able to identify key styles and regions of major grape varietals.
Ensure you know use and abuse of alcohol as WSET has become keen on this.
Be able to recognise indigenous grapes and their regions.
Make sure you know "old world" France (Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rhone, Loire and Champagne). Remember spirits may also crop up within the theory even if it's only in the multiple choice.
Be able to choose some similar wine styles from the same grape but a different region.
Be able to pair a wine with some suggested food and explain why you chose it.
Make sure you can systematically critique a wine in a blind tasting to the WSET standard.
Remember you have to pass the blind tasting and the theory section to pass. Theory is 50 mutliple choice plus 4 short answer questions each worth 25 marks. Blind tasting is also worth 25 marks.
Yes, the International Wine Center has said ... you can be asked anything in the book!
I am currently reviewing all of my notes and making flash cards ... I agree, it's the writing down pertinent facts again that makes it stick for me as well!
Alright, back for a bit more studying this afternoon!!
I was just sent the MW application pack for 2010. Here is the time requirements for passing
The MW Examination is divided into three parts: theory, practical and dissertation. Candidates are required to undertake the closed-book parts of the exam, theory and tasting, until they achieve a pass in at least one with three attempts within four years. Candidates have a maximum of five attempts within six years to achieve a pass in both theory and practical. Once a pass is achieved in both, candidates may progress to dissertation, which can be completed within a minimum of one year. It consists of the candidate’s own original research written up in a maximum of 10,000 words in English.
And no I am not applying. I have a life.
*warning, the link is to a company I have a big stake in* (figure that ought to cover things well enough here):
I don't know if you've made a final decision, but this is a pretty good overview (from an MS, but he dealt with everyone fairly evenhandedly) from the Preview issue of our magazine that went over most of the various certification programs and their focus. I think you've already gotten some great advice (I would chime in to add: ignore that silly anti-International Wine Center site, it's one disgruntled guy), but this may help with some of the facts:
http://www.sommelierjournal.com/articles/article.aspx?year=2007&month=12&articlenum=58 (I'd download the PDF and view it that way, easier to read the tables than using the image viewer, and that's where all the big info is).
Bias alert! I work for
That is a lot of books! Great list. But so as to not intimidate, honestly, I found these three books to be most effective:
Sotheby's--great for super detailed information, stuff you won't fin in the Oxford companion, but not that great for maps
World Atlas of Wine--great maps
Oxford COmpanion--good for specific words, etc for definitions but since it's not a book, it doesn't "narrate" or string the facts together.
Using all three together helped a lot.
"Quickly! Bring me a flago
Sarah are you referring to books for the Advanced Ceriftifcate or the Diploma. My list is what I used extensively for the Diploma.
A few books I forgot to mention are the Wines and Foods of the Loire Valley by Jacqueline Friedrich and Italian Wine for Dummies packed with info in a logical order. I also used Knowing and Making Wine by Emile Peynaud, David Bird's book was not available in the US until after I took the viticultural/vinification exam.
Stephen Skelton MWs book on Viticulture and also The Art and Science of Wine by James Halliday & Hugh Johnson are available via Amazon. These are now considered key reference books for WSET Diploma.
A number of the older key texts like those of Emile Peynaud are now out of print. Thanks for the list of refereces to QWSPR regions, this will be useful wheer I have not already purchased them.
I have a peer that has been an MW candidate for over 5 years. I know the level of difficulty and commitment, but I'm also curious if the new rule of 5 attempts and 6 years came into play for all candidates or if some were grandfathered in?
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