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How to become a Sommelier

avg. starting salary

Crazy about Cabernet? Mad about Merlot? Actually know the difference between the two? You should be a Sommelier… Sommeliers are specially trained wine waiters, who help serve and recommend the best beverages to their guests. They are usually found working at high-class, fine dining restaurants, often travelling around the world to work and learn their craft. As well as knowing about each individual region and its vineyards, this includes vintages, and even subtle differences between manufacturers. With a good level of experience, Sommeliers can move up to the position of Master Sommelier. However, you may need to be patient - there are only just over 200 of these in the entire world. Typical responsibilities for a Sommelier may include:
  • Planning the wine menu
  • Greeting, serving and advising customers
  • Making pairing recommendations for food and wine
  • Decanting wines, and educating customers on how to taste
  • Researching industry trends and attending wine tasting events
  • Ordering and maintaining stock

It takes several years of experience in order to become a Sommelier. And no, several years of drinking experience is not the same thing… You’ll need a large amount of specialist training to help build up an in-depth knowledge of different wines. And, as Sommeliers offer-up world-class service to their customers, excellent interpersonal skills and an approachable manner are similarly essential. Especially as some customers may feel too intimidated to ask questions. Sommeliers should also be knowledgeable about spirits, beers, and other beverages, as well as wine. Those who don’t know their Chardonnays from their Chablis need not apply. A Sommelier should also be:
  • Well presented
  • An excellent listener
  • A good teacher
  • Able to work under their own initiative
  • Able to keep up-to-date with the latest industry developments
  • Full bodied, rich and robust (maybe)



Up to £20,000


Up to £50,000

Master Sommelier

Up to £120,000

"I cut my teeth working as a silver service waiter before training up to become a Sommelier, which I’ve been doing for about five years now. It’s a completely different change of pace. Instead of rushing around serving, it’s much more measured and relaxed. For me it’s as much about listening to people’s preferences and teaching them how to taste the drink properly, rather than just telling them what to do. It can be a bit of pressure, especially when you have a fussy customer who doesn’t really know what they want. But if you love wine, and want to work in some of the world’s best restaurants, it’s pretty much a no-brainer. Just make sure you spit out what you get at tastings. Otherwise you’ll never remember what you had (something I learned the hard way)."

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