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As many sommeliers will say, the more you know about the wine world, the more you realize how much you don’t know. There are hundreds of wine-producing regions and thousands of grape varieties, not to mention a diverse range of styles and cast of characters behind the bottles.
There are books designed to help oenophiles brush up on wine knowledge, but if you’re the kind of learner who needs organization, tutelage, and deadlines, an online class will have you well on your way to a sommelier accreditation.
Traditionally, sommelier classes were taught in person, with days of curriculums and tasting. But thanks to the digital age, the wine world has now shifted online and many of the best certifications can be earned from the comfort of your couch. There are standardized certification courses and also classes that focus on grape science or the world of Champagne. Below, find our picks for the best online sommelier classes.
This is for real wine fans who are looking to go beyond wine delivery. The Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) is one of the premier wine education programs in the world, with courses offered in 70 countries and in 15 languages. Courses range in length, complexity, and specification, from single-day beginner courses to master-level diplomas on saké and spirit production.
Level one is perfect for those looking to test the waters of the wine world—the material covers the essentials, including familiar grape varieties, pairings, and storing and serving wines.
The higher tiers (Levels two through four) dive into specialist-level knowledge. Each expands on the information learned in the previous levels, covering the winemaking process, established and upcoming regions, varieties, and wine service.
Levels conclude with a standardized test via an accredited classroom—levels one and two are written assessments, while levels three and four also include tasting exams using the WSET’s highly-regarded codified wine evaluation grid. The programs require disciplined study and time commitment, but the tiers lay out a clear path for those looking to continue their wine education long-term.
Pricing varies and depends on the provider and location you choose.
The Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) program via the Society of Wine Educators is a rigorous 12-week course that pushes candidates to master the world of viticulture, wine production, and knowledge.
As one of the most acclaimed programs in the industry, the curriculum covers faults, physiology of taste, wine composition and chemistry, and wine etiquette and service.
Study tools include over 800 graphic wine map flashcards and drag-and-drop exercises. There are nearly 900 digital flashcards available for purchase, as are several practice tests and quizzes based on the certified study guide and workbook.
The program is capped off with a multiple-choice exam, written through partner testing centers. Candidates who achieve over 75% on their final exam receive a lapel pin and certificate, and are encouraged to use the CSW post-nominal.
For about $135 per year, members of the Society of Wine Educators are offered online classes and monthly webinars to assist in their studies. One of the big draws of the society is the range of seminars available. For those looking for higher education, the CSW is the prerequisite for pursuing the Certified Wine Educator certification.
Wine is made in all 50 U.S. states, and this comprehensive certification course is dedicated to American wine regions, covering everywhere from Sonoma and Napa to more under-the-radar winemaking areas.
Students will learn about different styles and varieties that make up America’s diverse winemaking scene and the winemakers leading each region. Much of the information cultivated is exclusive to the course—the program partners with regional winemaking associations for a thorough, up-to-date curriculum.
The course pushes readers to get a working knowledge of the American wine scene, covering microclimates, geography, grape species and varieties, history, industry milestones, as well as the different appellations in key winemaking states.
Buying the self-taught course ($399) will get you 12 months of access to the online database where all materials, including interactive maps and online quizzes, are available 24/7. Each class concludes with practice and final exams, and successful candidates receive a flashy AWE certificate.
Best for Industry Professionals:
International Sommelier Guild
This multi-tiered program is built for wine students of all commitments. The International Sommelier Guild (ISG) begins with the introductory Intermediate Wine Certificate (IWC), then progresses to the Advanced Wine Certificate (AWC), and the ISG Master Sommelier certification (ISGM).
All levels cover the features of each grape varieties, how they’re grown, and how they are made into wine through extensive videos, text, online lectures, and suggested wines tastings. Each level builds on the previous program’s knowledge. Through the IWC and AWC, two sommelier instructors are available to students: one for fielding tasting questions and the other for knowledge questions.
Once students have completed intermediate-level studies, they can pursue the full ISG Master Sommelier diploma. Over a course of 30 weeks, students progress through 300 live video classes and 400 structured tasting videos. Six instructors are available for questions. The diploma course concludes with one practical and three theory exams. This isn’t a course for the hobbyist?—ISGM graduates are required to pen a dissertation.
The International Sommelier Guild’s recent global expansion means the course is now offered in Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Chinese, Latvian, Turkish, Greek, Hungarian, Bulgarian, and German. Classes start at about $500 and increase from there.
Champagne has a long history, filled with monks, rappers, and celebrations large and small. A course designed by the Comité Champagne?—an association of trade growers and makers of the Champagne region?—dives into this history and teaches vino lovers and professionals about the world’s premier sparkling wine.
The classic version of the program (free to all) covers the process of making their sparkling wine, the storied history of the product, and service notes. The premium version (roughly $59) builds on the classic one by adding extra videos, skill-testing modules, and a certification of completion.
Both levels include tasting modules. The courses are offered in English and French, with subtitles available in Italian, Spanish, Russian, German, Japanese, and Chinese.
Learning is self-paced and takes a max of five hours to complete. The course content is broadly geared to appeal to wine industry professionals (think sommeliers, oenologists, merchants, and buyers), as well as enthusiasts and tourists headed to the region.
For industry members, this deep dive into Méthode Champenoise provides a solid foundation that can be applied to other sparkling wine regions.
Winemaking Certification Program at University of California,
Catered to serious oenophiles, the winemaking certification program at the University of California, Davis covers its science, spanning the important factors of growing grapes, understanding sensory perception, fundamental analytical chemistry, and assessing the quality of wine.
For $8,810, this program is particularly aimed at the sommelier who is considering a future in winemaking or those interested in learning about wine at a chemical and microbiological level. Over 18 months, students will learn practical knowledge and techniques that will benefit their career in a vineyard winery or service setting. Students receive access to world-class instructors and the school's network of 250,000 alumni across the globe.
For a less extensive course of study, UC Davis partnered with Coursera for a free sensory wine course aimed at beginners, or those looking to get a feel for the program. Winemaker John Buechsenstein leads the sessions, guiding participants through how the senses interpret wines via sensory vocabulary, tasting techniques, pairings, and faults. The program concludes with a peer review.
For students who want to focus their efforts on a particular country, the Wine Scholar Guild (WSG) offers programs specializing in vino from France, Italy, and Spain. The courses discuss regional appellations, local grape varieties, and what shapes their identities. All lessons are aided by the regional ministries of agriculture for an exceptional level of rigor.
For around $595, the program can be further specialized with regional-focused, master-level certifications. Candidates can focus on any of the major wine regions of France, including Alsace, Bordeaux, and Loire.
The WSG is friendly toward wine professionals, enthusiasts, travelers, and anyone looking to expand their knowledge. Curriculums are self-paced with reading materials and quizzes, and you can take exams via an online proctor if you wish.
For those who prefer to study in situ, the guild runs immersion study trips to European winemaking regions. All graduates leave the program with post-nominals.
What Is an Online Sommelier Class?
An online sommelier class is designed to either introduce aspiring sommeliers to the landscape or to help active sommeliers refine their service skills, knowledge and palate. These classes can often be a relatively significant investment in money and time, so if you’re serious about your work or personal relationship with wine, you’re in the right place. With the right course, you can expect to learn a lot of information while tasting an obscene amount of wine.
What Kind of Supplies Will I Need for an Online Sommelier Class?
In terms of wine samples, this depends entirely on the course you’ve chosen, but you can expect to receive a list in advance of the first session along with any relevant study materials. But in general, in addition to your device, you should plan to have a notebook, a good pen or pencil, quality wine glasses (like Zalto, Gabriel-Glas or Grassl), a spittoon, water and a neutral palate cleanser such as a plate of water crackers. Index cards are also helpful if you wish to make your own flashcards to study.
Can I Get a Certification Through an Online Sommelier Class?
Most online sommelier courses do offer certifications upon completion––often, that’s what sets these apart from a general online wine class or course. Sommelier courses also tend to be much more in-depth and intense than casual wine classes.
How We Chose the Best Online Sommelier Classes
While the world of wine requires all senses, the industry has adapted favorably to moving online. Now, you can traverse the world of wine from your couch—regardless of budget.
The above classes range from quick blanket guides on all things wine to more extensive deep dives into varieties and terroir. There are some that are highly regarded and require time and monetary commitment, and others are more fit to quickly brushing up on skills. We also included free and cost-friendly courses that narrow in on specific grape-growing regions and styles like Champagne and Loire.