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7 Master Sommelier Facts, Salary, Exam Costs, Jobs, and More

Today, we present you 7 master sommelier facts, salary, exam costs, and more on that subject.

You pour your first glass of wine for the night. Look deep into its burgundy glow. What is it telling you? Is it young, old, oaky, sweet, spicy, or rich? Does it pair well with a certain meal? Should you savor it alone?

Also, if the wine is talking to you is it really your first glass? Be honest with us, or this relationship will never succeed—clearly the truth is that you love wine.

So, you want to be a sommelier. First you need more information than just to know how much you love wine. Everyone loves wine! With that, we have compiled 7 master sommelier facts, salary, exam costs, jobs and more.

People have been drinking wine for thousands of years. Literally—8,000 years ago in Georgia, the former Soviet republic Stone Age humans were consuming wine. We know this because scientists recently unearthed ceramics from the 5th and 6th century BC with wine residue inside of them.

The modern sommelier was invented right alongside the modern-day restaurant—before these people didn’t order off menus they simply ate the meal the tavern owners provided. However, ancestral remnants of the sommelier stretch at least as far back as the 12 century when royal butlers would procure wine for the court.

Early wine stewards cropped up in France after the revolution. With the aristocratic class reduced—many chefs were unemployed. Therefore they sought to open small public restaurants. These restaurants needed beverage managers—likely rejected kitchen help or unemployed workers with food training—these prototypical sommeliers would haggle over barrels. Bottles of wine did not become standard fare until the mid-1900s.

So what exactly is a master sommelier one might ask? And what do they do? To simply put, a sommelier is a wine steward, someone professionally trained in the art of wine and food pairing. Take a sip of these 7 master sommelier facts, salary, exam costs, jobs and more to get a deeper understanding of the specifics of this job and see if it is to your taste. If not, you can always read about 11 Easiest and Best Paying Jobs in the World, and see if something better suits you there. 

Now, let’s list all we found out about master sommelier facts, salary, exam costs, and more.


1. How to Become a Master Sommelier?

OK, let’s begin our list of master sommelier facts, salary, exam costs, and more interesting information with an answer to this question. While it may seem like a simple process—in reality it is quite a daunting task. There are several difficult stages one must take on and complete in order to receive the honorable title of a master sommelier.

  • Register for sommelier classes or exams. Follow the instructions here. In order to even register you must have at least 3 years of experience in wine service or in related food/hospitality industry work.
  • Start off with the 2-day Introductory Sommelier Course.
  • Prepare yourself for the Certified Sommelier Exam.
  • Take for the Certified Sommelier Exam.
  • Attend the Advanced Sommelier Course, a 3-day period of intensive lectures and tasting sessions given by master sommeliers.
  • Advanced Sommelier Exam, here you will have to prove yourself regarding salesmanship and serving ability with restaurant wine.
  • Get invited by CMS to take the Master Sommelier Diploma Exam. If your results are good enough then, you will get the call to sit for the finals. However, there is a mandatory 1-year waiting period. During the wait you are free to work on and hone your skills.
  • Take the 3-part Master Sommelier Diploma Exam, this multipart exam is designed to separate the Carlo Rossi from the Chateau Margaux—that’s wine for “the bad from the best.” The exam is designed to assess your ability to serve and recommend appropriate wines and spirits, your knowledge of wine-making, and other related subjects like other alcoholic beverages and cigar production. You have a full three years to pass the master sommelier exam. The test is very difficult, thus, the three year period may sound sufficient, but in reality, three years are not enough for most of the candidates.


2. Cost of taking the Master Sommelier exam

This issue definitely needs to be on our list of master sommelier facts, salary, exam costs, and more, because it’s of a great importance if you are serious about becoming the professional in this field. For a diploma, the costs involved are somewhat high. But the prestige of becoming a sommelier makes up for it. A candidate must complete 4 levels in order to be awarded the diploma of master sommelier, and each level costs a significant amount of money:

  • Level I – Introductory Sommelier Course & Examination ($525.00)
  • Level II – Certified Sommelier Examination ($595)
  • Level III – Advanced Sommelier ($995)
  • Level IV – Master Sommelier (both Tasting & Practical Examination $1500 USD)

3. How hard is it to become a master sommelier?

There are 4 levels of professional sommeliers, each one becoming harder than the last, and the final level (Master Sommelier) has a daunting pass rate of less than 1%. After completing all four levels with success one can become a master sommelier.

So, how hard is it to actually pass the exams? Well, the short answer is that it varies. The introductory exams are going to be a walk in the park for most, the pass rate is above 90%, and the test covers topics such as elementary wine making procedures, grape varieties, and matching wines with food. The second level (Certified Sommelier) is a rather recent addition, it has only been in the curriculum since 2005, and the pass rate is 60%. It primarily focuses on in-depth knowledge of the world of wine.

The third exam is where the difficulty spikes harshly, the exam focuses heavily on professional service, and wider knowledge of a variety of wine-producing regions, and producers. It is often recommended that the candidates prepare for this exam 1 to 2 years. And on the exam, they can expect theoretical questions that demand short, precise answers; of course, the test wouldn’t be complete without blind wine tasting of six different wines and showing the quality of your service. And the pass rate for this level? Naturally, it is much lower than for the previous, exactly 30%.

Finally, assuming the candidate has passed all previous tests, and they have been working in the industry for at least 10 years they take the last exam. As mentioned, the pass rate is dismally less than 1%. Basically, this is just a stronger version of the previous exam, as it is expected from candidates to prove those 10 years of experience.

4. The number of master sommeliers

Since we are talking about master sommelier facts, salary, exam costs, and more, what do you think, how many sommeliers have earned the title of Master Sommelier as part of the Americas chapter? Well, not that many. 147 to be precise since the organization’s foundation. Among those 147 there are only 23 women, and 124 men. And, since the first Master Sommelier Diploma Exam, 230 people around the world have also earned the title.


5. Sommelier salaries

Median range of a sommelier salary according to Payscale is $47k. However, according to the Guild of Sommeliers Salary Survey of 2014, the average salary for a Master Sommelier is $150k compared to the $78k for an Advanced Sommelier.

 7 Master Sommelier Facts, Salary, Exam Costs, Jobs, and More



6. Who are the youngest master sommeliers?

You are still interested in master sommelier facts, salary, exam costs, and more? Well, check this out – the world sommelier conjures up an image of a middle-aged man in one’s mind, but here are the exceptions. The youngest male sommelier ever to pass the fourth level is Mr. Roland Micu; he passed the master sommelier exam at the remarkable age of 28 and the youngest female sommelier is Ms. Alpana Singh who achieved her diploma only at the age of 27.


7. Women master sommeliers

Can you believe that less than 15% of the world master sommeliers are women? Fortunately, things are changing, and women are taking more interest in the profession. Women are working shoulder to shoulder in any given profession today. However, the field of sommelier is still very much dominated by men. But things are beginning to take a turn, as more and more women are following the footsteps of successful sommeliers like Alpana Singh (youngest master sommelier),  Petra PolakovIicova, (Wine Director at Epic Steak) and many more.

If you’ve enjoyed reading our piece on 7 master sommelier facts, salary, exam costs, and more, then you should definitely check out the documentary, Somm. Directed by Jason Wise, it features the real time events in the life of 4 candidates. See it for yourself if you wish to know about the intriguing world of sommeliers.