If you’re interested in becoming a sommelier, but don’t want to have to trudge through an expensive, multi-year program, then you should check out Master Sommeliers, Americas new Introductory Sommelier Course and Exam. The course is free and open to anyone over the age of 21, and you don’t even have to go to a physical location to take the exam, which will let you know if you’re able to to become a Certified Introductory Sommelier.

It’s a grueling test, but according to the Court of Master Sommeliers, Americas, one in three is expected to pass the certification exam over the next few years. The Court has announced that it is making the first step to becoming a master sommelier easier with a new online introductory course and certification exam.


This program is part of the organization’s mission to create a more accessible and inclusive wine education space.

Napa, CA (April 27, 2021) – The U.S. Court of Master Sommeliers announces the expansion of online programs for the Introduction to Sommelier Course and Examination, the first of four levels in the organization’s training and examination program. The introductory sommelier program is currently in presale and will officially launch on the 15th. May. It is part of CMS-A’s ongoing restructuring to make wine education more inclusive, accessible and flexible for candidates, students and the community at large. As part of this mission and in solidarity with an industry hit hard by the pandemic, the CMS-A Diversity Committee will award 100 scholarships for the online introductory sommelier course to BIPOC representatives, women and individuals in need.

We are excited to make the organization’s introductory sommelier program and exams more accessible to serious restaurateurs and wine enthusiasts across the country, said Catherine Morgan, MS, vice president of the board and chair of the organization’s education committee. While online programs are especially useful in the event of a pandemic, the organization also sees them as a long-term tool to help us serve hospitality professionals in markets where face-to-face programs are not available, to reach students who cannot travel due to work or family commitments, to provide opportunities for those who want to learn at their own pace, and to offer more affordable programs for those who are not native English speakers, are hearing impaired, or have other abilities.

Online introduction program for sommeliers

The CMS-A program is distinguished from all other wine education programs in that the courses, including the introductory sommelier course, are taught exclusively by master sommeliers. This course is open to anyone working in the wholesale and retail sectors of hotels, restaurants and drinks, anyone considering a career as a professional sommelier or anyone wanting to learn more about wine. The introductory sommelier course introduces participants to the organization, the tasting method, wines of the world, beer, sake, spirits, the profession of sommelier and service standards.

The Introductory Sommelier Online course is designed for self-study on demand, and students have access to the course and exam for 180 days from the program start date as indicated in their registration. Registered students have immediate access to a digital copy of the introductory sommelier textbook, as well as a video series of lectures and tastings led by master sommeliers. The course also offers training in service, hospitality and a recently added segment on the sommelier business that provides a behind-the-scenes look at the sommelier’s role in business revenue, relationships and cost control.

CMS-A has ordered Master The World™ (MTW) wine kits to support a new online training program. The kits consist of 18 wines presented in 187 ml bottles. It uses a patented anaerobic refill process that ensures quality and provides an innovative and cost-effective solution for student access to wine. The cost of the introductory sommelier program, including the MTW kit, is $699 or $499 without the kit. In this case, participants have the opportunity to support their education by purchasing their own wines from CMS’ list of recommendations.

Upon completion of the course, participants can take the sommelier entrance exam, a 70-question closed book exam that lasts 45 minutes. Participants must pass the exam with a minimum score of 60% to receive a certificate and pin. A link to the exam will be available to students for 180 days from the date of enrollment in the program.

The online Introductory Sommelier Course and Exam is equivalent to the two-day on-site course and exam ($699) that the organization plans to repeat later this year. The online Introduction to Sommelier course is designed to resemble a classroom course as much as possible.

For more information or to pre-register for the Introductory Sommelier Course and online exam, visit www.mastersommeliers.org/online-learning/introductory-sommelier-course-examination, and for more information about the CMS-A, visit www.mastersommeliers.org.

Online fairs for aspiring sommeliers

The CMS-A has established a Diversity Scholarship Committee, comprised of Master Sommelier Club members and non-Master Sommelier industry professionals, to select the recipients of the 100 scholarships. The scholarship is open to any student seeking a degree in the restaurant, hospitality or beverage industry in the United States, identifies as BIPOC+ and is 21 years of age or older. Beneficiaries are selected blindly, but priority is given to applicants with financial needs and limited access to wine education. A portion of the scholarships will be available specifically for HBCU hospitality and/or viticulture programs. More information on how to apply for this scholarship will be announced soon.

Scholarships include enrollment in an in-person or online introductory sommelier course, including shipping*.

*Note that wine cannot be shipped outside the continental United States or to the following U.S. states at this time: AL, AR, DE, KY, MS, RI, SD, UT.


Founded in England in 1977, the Court sets the global standard for excellence in beverage service in the hospitality industry through integrity, exemplary knowledge and humility. The first Master Sommelier exam was held in the United States in 1987. The US office, which serves North and South America, was established in 1987. Since then, 172 professionals have earned the title of Master Sommelier within the U.S. Department. The title of Master Sommelier is the highest recognition of knowledge of wines and spirits, beverage service skills and professionalism in the hospitality industry. Education was then, and still is, the mission of the Court. For more information, see www.mastersommeliers.org.


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Frequently Asked Questions

Can you become a sommelier online?

The Court of Master Sommeliers (CMS) is an international certifying body for those working in the wine and spirits industry. Within the CMS credentialing structure, three levels of certification are offered: the Introductory, Certified and Master Sommelier diplomas. Passing a series of written and practical examinations to become a somm is no easy feat, so if you think you have what it takes, see our study guide for the Certified Somm exam. Not everyone can afford to travel to wine country every year to spend time with the world’s best sommeliers, but with the proliferation of online wine courses, aspiring sommeliers now have the option to learn from the comfort of their own home, at their own pace. Of these courses, the Court of Master Sommeliers has quickly become the most popular, with over 100,000 students taking their various courses since 2001.

How many Level 1 sommeliers are there?

If you’re an oenophile, an important question to ponder as you sip your glass of wine is this: How many sommeliers have been trained in the science of pairing wine with food? In the United States, less than a thousand people have earned the title Master Sommelier. The next rung down the ladder is the Level 1 certification. Earning this designation will give you a solid foundation in the basic techniques of pairing food and wine. As only around 200 people in the world have passed the notoriously difficult Master Sommelier exam, it stands to reason that not every sommelier who passes the Level 1 exam will go on to the next level. The Court of Master Sommeliers (CMS) has confirmed that there are currently 19 master sommeliers who have passed Level 1, but didn’t progress on to Level 2 for various reasons.

Which sommelier certification is best?

At some point in your career, you’ll want to get your WSET certificate or perhaps you are already a master sommelier. But are you? If you are not yet a master sommelier, you may think that passing the master sommelier certification will be a piece of cake, btu it’s not all roses. Becoming a master sommelier is a dream for many and a goal for a few. But it’s not easy and the road is long and arduous. You would need to attend a few courses in order to get your WSET certificate and it won’t be easy, specially if you’re a student. In the US, sommelier certification is an important step towards a successful career in wine. WinesDirect lists the main three certification programs – the Master Sommelier Diploma, the Advanced Sommelier Diploma, and the Court of Master Sommeliers level 1 exam – and explains their differences and benefits.

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