In an era where remote work has become the new norm, the once-elusive dream of online sommelier courses has transformed into a tangible reality. Leading wine certification agencies have adapted their sommelier programs to the digital landscape, allowing enthusiasts worldwide to delve into the world of wine expertise.
This development holds particular significance for individuals outside major urban centers, where traditional wine courses predominantly thrive. Not only are these online programs more accessible, but they also offer cost savings of up to 30% compared to in-person alternatives.
Article Table of Contents
- 1 First Place: National Wine School
- 2 Second Place: Wine & Spirit Education Trust
- 3 Third Place: International Sommelier Guild
- 4 More Online Wine Course Options
First Place: National Wine School
Taking the forefront in this digital revolution is the National Wine School (NWS), renowned for its wine courses offered in collegiate settings.
While lacking the flashy allure of organizations like the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) or the Court of Master Sommeliers (CMS), NWS seamlessly transitioned to online platforms, leveraging their existing online educational resources. The integration of well-produced video lectures and teleconferences with experienced professors distinguishes NWS’s programs as leaders in the field.
Particularly noteworthy are their highly acclaimed Level 2 and Level 3 programs, which shine with the inclusion of proprietary scent kits, elevating the learning experience to new heights.
The NWS program, delivered through its comprehensive and SCORM-compliant public-facing platform, offers an array of reading materials and testing options, reflecting the professionalism associated with university deployments. In our opinion, this is the best online sommelier course available today.
Sample Online NWS Sommelier Course
Where Else to Take: Online Wine School (Chicago or Philadelphia)
For those seeking alternative avenues to pursue NWS programs, the Online Wine School affiliated with the Wine School of Philadelphia (WSoP) and the Chicago Wine School present enticing options. These institutions serve as distribution hubs for NWS content, with several key contributors also serving as instructors at WSoP. While WSoP is lauded for its in-person programs, the potential cost savings make it an attractive choice, mirroring a similar experience with the Chicago Wine School.
Second Place: Wine & Spirit Education Trust
Securing the second position in this digital oenological landscape is the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET), a dominant force in the restaurant trade.
Boasting brand recognition, WSET caters to individuals aspiring to pursue careers in the culinary industry. The online version of their courses replicates the familiar teleconference format with PowerPoint presentations delivered by WSET-certified instructors.
While this formula has garnered criticism for its potential to render wine education monotonous, the prevalence of this program within the restaurant industry holds its own appeal. The live instructor component, made possible through collaboration with local WSET affiliate schools, further adds to its allure.
The geographical spread of the program facilitates price comparison, as WSET franchises actively compete with one another. Just one caveat: the quality of some of these programs is far from stellar. See the “Online Sommelier Courses to Avoid” section for more details.
Sample Online WSET Wine Course
Where to Take: Grape Experience
Navigating through the plethora of WSET affiliates, Grape Experience emerges as a top choice, primarily due to its asynchronous class structure and the inclusion of weekly online Zoom meetings with instructors. Grape Experience stands out for its overall excellence, led by the exceptional teaching abilities of Adam Chase and a team of dedicated educators.
Third Place: International Sommelier Guild
Claiming the third spot is the International Sommelier Guild (ISG), renowned for its elevated production value, albeit occasionally compromised by outdated information. While headquartered in the United States, ISG has expanded globally, offering online programs in multiple languages, including Russian, Spanish, and Chinese. The programs, delivered through an outstanding asynchronous learning experience, rely solely on audio lectures, prompting a desire to include video instructions to enrich the learning process.
Sample Online Sommelier Course
More Online Wine Course Options
University Online Wine Courses
Several universities also offer noteworthy wine education options online, although they do not provide sommelier certification. The comprehensive and well-organized U.C. Davis Wine class on Coursera stands out, while the University of Adelaide offers an exceptional introductory wine program. However, these courses cater more to enthusiasts rather than aspiring wine professionals.
Some schools also offer online wine courses for their students. However, many of these are white-label programs from NWS or WSET and are priced higher than anywhere else. We recommend staying away unless you need a university logo on your diploma.
Online Sommelier Courses to Avoid
Notwithstanding the progress made in online sommelier education, it is crucial to be aware of subpar programs. Due to its franchising model, the Wine & Spirit Education Trust bears some responsibility for the proliferation of flawed online wine courses. Schools lacking the necessary infrastructure and teaching credentials can purchase content from suppliers like WSET, resulting in an over-reliance on uninspiring PowerPoint presentations. The call for wine schools to develop original and engaging content remains vital for improving online courses and enhancing wine education overall.
Our Criteria for Rating Online Sommelier Classes
When it comes to assessing online sommelier classes, we adhere to a set of criteria to determine their quality and value. Here’s what we look for:
Exceptional Wine Instruction: We believe that top-notch wine instructors should possess the ability to deliver knowledge in an engaging and compelling manner. A great teacher understands the core concepts and ensures that students grasp them. We prioritize instructors who bring fun, dynamism, and intelligence to their teaching, steering clear of those who deliver information in a monotonous and uninspiring manner.
Interactive Student Engagement: Interaction between students and staff is vital, particularly when students have questions or require clarification. Effective communication channels such as Zoom, email, or chat functions facilitate this interaction, creating an environment where students feel supported and engaged throughout their learning journey.
High-Quality Video and Audio: In the age of video conferencing platforms like Zoom, subpar video and audio quality are no longer acceptable. A superior online sommelier class should provide a visually sharp and audibly crisp experience. We expect programs to utilize high-resolution video, including HD and 4K standards, while employing top-notch audio equipment, such as high-quality cardioid microphones, to ensure a professional learning atmosphere.
Comprehensive Online Academic Resources: Online sommelier classes should offer original and well-structured online materials. Whether these materials are presented through video lectures or reading materials depends on the program’s format. What matters most is that the content is organized in a lesson-by-lesson format, allowing students to progress through the material systematically. Additionally, the inclusion of quizzes or projects that enable students to assess their progress and comprehension is a valuable feature.
Wine Selection Guidance: Many Level 2 and Level 3 sommelier programs require students to purchase specific wines for tasting and analysis. The best programs provide a list of recommended wines, ensuring that students have access to the appropriate selections for their studies. However, we caution against programs that offer to send wine samples directly. Through our research, we have found that such programs often charge a high markup, provide low-quality wines, and may even ship them illegally, leading us to discourage this practice.
Accredited Sommelier Certification: One of the essential factors we consider is whether a program offers proper sommelier certification upon completion. Unfortunately, not all programs labeled as “Online Sommelier Classes” provide legitimate and recognized certification. We strongly recommend selecting a program that can offer a qualified accredited certificate to ensure the value and credibility of the education received.
By assessing online sommelier classes against these criteria, aspiring wine enthusiasts and professionals can make informed decisions and choose programs that align with their expectations and goals.
Online Sommelier Course Terminology
Embarking on the journey of exploring online sommelier classes necessitates familiarity with a few pivotal terms. Firstly, asynchronous courses deserve attention, as they exemplify a meticulously crafted and professionally produced learning experience. These courses feature expertly recorded videos that grant students the freedom to progress through the material at their preferred pace. However, it is worth noting that such high-caliber programs are often exclusive to the more esteemed wine schools, as the resources required for their implementation are substantial.
In contrast, synchronous courses adopt a different approach by streaming live sessions that adhere to predetermined schedules. This format, although more prevalent, may not deliver the same level of quality as its asynchronous counterpart. Nevertheless, it offers a structured learning environment accessible to a broader audience.
Lastly, it is essential to acquaint oneself with the term SCORM, an eLearning protocol widely employed by universities and schools to construct and administer student courses. Familiarizing oneself with this standard will aid in understanding the underlying framework through which online sommelier classes are built and delivered.
By grasping these critical terms, aspiring wine connoisseurs can confidently navigate the realm of online sommelier education, making informed decisions that align with their desired learning experience.
COVID and Online Sommelier Courses
In the pre-2020 era, online sommelier courses were hardly a blip on the radar of wine education. However, the seismic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the traditional landscape of in-person wine instruction across the United States. As the doors of physical classrooms closed, leading wine schools found themselves compelled to adapt swiftly, embracing the virtual realm with a range of online wine programs. Conversations with numerous wine educators underscored the vital role that this shift played in ensuring the survival of their institutions.
The pandemic-induced shutdown represented a colossal paradigm shift, one that birthed a reimagined world of wine education conducted through digital platforms. This article is dedicated to exploring the realm of online sommelier certifications, while our reviews of Virtual Wine Tastings delve into the realm of wine-tasting classes.
Crafting and launching a comprehensive sommelier certification program is no mean feat. It requires the expertise and collaborative efforts of seasoned professionals. Notably, leading wine accreditation bodies rose to the occasion by creating new and innovative programs. The Court of Master Sommeliers, renowned for its rigorous standards, developed a tailored version of their esteemed Level One Program for online delivery. The National Wine School seized the opportunity to introduce a fresh series of online classes, embracing the digital frontier. Meanwhile, the Wine & Spirit Education Trust, while refraining from updating its existing programs, empowered its franchises with increased autonomy to adapt to the online medium.
With several months dedicated to immersing ourselves in numerous online wine courses, we encountered a vast spectrum of quality. Those highlighted on this page have proven their worth, warranting your investment of both time and money. However, it is crucial to acknowledge that not all programs we explored met the mark, with several online sommelier courses falling short of expectations. In our quest to assist readers in making informed decisions, we delve into the key factors for evaluating a program’s quality in the concluding section of this article.
The world of wine education has embarked on an unprecedented journey, navigating uncharted territory through online sommelier courses. As the virtual classroom becomes the new stage for enriching wine knowledge, it is imperative to discern the gems from the subpar offerings. By shedding light on the top-notch programs available, we endeavor to equip wine enthusiasts and professionals alike with the tools to navigate this exciting frontier of learning.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I become a Level 1 sommelier?
Level One Certification is the most common online wine course. Three agencies offer this certification online: the National Wine School, the Court of Master Sommeliers, and the Wine & Spirit Education Trust.
Can I become a sommelier online?
Sommelier certification can be earned online. Most agencies offer a level one certification, which is not considered enough to be considered a sommelier. It is commonly suggested to earn your Level Three Sommelier certification. Several schools allow you to earn this credential online, including the Wine & Spirit Education Trust and the National Wine School.