Wine Certifications

If you’ve followed my Instagram posts, you know I’ve been pursuing the Diploma Level in Wines from the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET). At the end of October I took the two-day exam for the most challenging section of the curriculum and I’m awaiting the results (fingers crossed), but regardless of the results the journey is worth it*.

I’m often asked what is the Diploma Level in Wines and if it means I’m going to be a Master Somm?  I decided maybe I should try to explain the difference between these wine education certifications, while reminding myself, why I’m doing this?!

First, the Sommelier and the WSET education paths are similar in that both require knowing theory and the ability to assess wine blindly. What do we mean by theory? To put it simply, it’s understanding all the components of viticulture, enology and business that make a wine what it is and sold and priced as it is. Students of both curriculums must use their theory knowledge and acute senses to assess wine quality through blind tastings of wines from around the world.

The sommelier path also includes a service component, which requires candidates know appropriate glassware, temperature, bottle opening and wine presentation, plus knowledge of spirits.

Regardless of which route, there are several levels, with the highest being Master Sommelier (Somm for short) and Master of Wine. To be accepted into the Institute of Masters of Wine, one must pass the WSET Diploma Level or equivalent education such as a college degree in enology, viticulture, etc… To be accepted into the Master Sommelier Program through the Court of Master Sommeliers, one must make their way through the Introductory course followed by becoming a Certified Sommelier and then Advanced Sommelier. Both paths take a minimum of three years before pursuing their Master programs. Few ascend to the Master level as there are currently less than 200 Master Somms in the world and just over 400 Masters of Wine.

Somm education is often explained as being more practical, whereas WSET and Master of Wine are considered more theoretical. In one article I read they equated Master of Wine = PhD and Master Somm = MD.

WSET does offer three levels from introduction to advanced that precede the Diploma. My initial intention was to only complete the introductory one day class so I could accurately integrate wine education into my wine and wellness experiences. Yet, this initial class awoke a passion in me that has led me down the wine rabbit hole. I love wine because when you learn about wine, you learn about so much more—history, climate, soil, geography, chemistry, laws, business, culture, people…

Plus, it awakens your senses and ability to analyze aromas and flavors. I will say there are times I’d like to just sip a glass of wine without evaluating, but then I’d miss the story the wine has to tell.

The learning opportunities are endless because like many industries, the more you learn the more you realize there is to learn and there are a lot more wines to discover!

Now what will I do with this knowledge…share it with you!

I plan to build decantU by both continuing to offer classes on the relationship between wine and wellness, but also other experiences like wine pairing events, wine education, as well as decantU’s latest venture—Curated. Curated was created to help elevate the wine experience at charity events. Read more here.


*Since initially writing this, I passed this exam and the final one on fortified wines and am officially a DipWSET, which is the term used for a person who has earned the WSET Diploma in Wine.