Reviews of Wine Schools
Each school is given a ranking on a hundred-point scale. This ranking is based on three factors that significantly contribute to the success of sommelier students.
Wine education has progressed a great deal in the past two decades. In the early years, classes were held in back rooms of wine shops and restaurants. Often those classes were taught by a wine rep who donated the wines. As a result, wine certification was neither particularly well respected nor organized at the time. Things have changed dramatically.
It is now expected that classes and exams are held at a well-appointed school. In addition, the facility should have at least one classroom explicitly designed for wine education; it may also offer cooking and fermentation facilities.
The instruction at a wine school is critical to the student’s success. Therefore, attending classes with a talented and knowledgeable teacher is essential. We have found this matters more than what certification program the teacher is affiliated with. While there are many good instructors without formal training, we consider an excellent teacher to have a master’s degree, ten years in the trade, and a Level 4 (Advanced) Sommelier certification.
There are three levels of accreditation. The highest accreditation level is federal, allowing a school to issue a university degree. A few dozen offer sommelier training as part of an undergraduate degree, and only a few offer a professional certificate program open to the public.
The second level of accreditation is state-level, which results in either an associate’s degree or professional licensing. A limited amount of wine schools offer this level of certification. However, none of the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) schools provide this level of accreditation.
The lowest level of wine certification is called a trade qualification. This is the most limited type of qualification. It isn’t a professional license or accreditation at all. They are only issued for a minimal range of jobs by law. For instance, WSET issues qualifications — they cannot legally call them certifications–exclusively for restaurant employees working with wine.
Schools that offer these types of qualifications often are not accredited. Many excellent schools fall into this category. However, not all states look kindly at such schools, so research before committing.
The most crucial element of a school is how well they prepare their students for the wine trade. We pull data from LinkedIn, Somm’s List, Facebook, Twitter, and Yelp to create a “student satisfaction” number for the school.
We use two points of data for student satisfaction. First, the happier the students are with their school experience, the higher the school is ranked. The second data point is pulled from employment numbers: the more students gainfully employed in the wine trade, the higher the school’s grade.