Being a certified wine lover sounds like one of those dream jobs. Like being professional movie watcher or donut recipe tester! Can you imagine? Even if those jobs do exist, I’m sure they’re taken. Fortunately, the wine industry has a myriad of career options that suit a variety of skill sets and knowledge levels. If you’re considering a career in wine, I’ve put together a guide to help you out. Follow along to discover the best path to suit your goals plus where to find the proper credentials. This is your guide to becoming a certified wine lover.

Wine & Spirit Educational Trust

WSET programs are designed for people who work in the wine industry as well as general enthusiasts. WSET is the international standard for wine education and offers everything from single-day beginner courses to its flagship (minimum 2 years) level 4 diploma program.

GOOD FOR: retail or tasting room hosts, sales & marketing for a distributor or agency, entry level or mid level restaurant staff or hospitality workers, any position involving the selling or business of wine.

WHERE TO STUDY IN BC: Fine Vintage, Statera, Everything Wine, PICA, Wine+

WHERE TO STUDY IN ALBERTA: Fine Vintage, Willow Park, Co-Op

Please note that some course providers may have halted classroom learning due to COVID-19.

Wine Scholar Guild

While WSET cover regions and grape varieties on a somewhat broad scale (at least up to level 3), WSG focuses on specifics. This includes climate and history. In-depth certifications are available for France, Italy and Spain. Master-level certifications are also options for distinct wine regions.

GOOD FOR: retail or wine shop managers/owners, mid to upper level sales & marketing positions, sommelier/wine director/restaurant managers.

WHERE TO STUDY: Cru Consultancy in Vancouver, Victoria, Calgary & Edmonton. No classroom courses are currently happening due to COVID-19, however the WSG is offering all courses online.

Institute of Masters of Wine

If you’ve gotten this far (hurray for you!) and you’re staying on the business side of wine (vs hospitality), then there’s the prestigious Master of Wine or MW designation. This road is lengthy, taking many additional years of commitment and study. There are only a few hundred Masters of Wine in the world. A mere 10 reside in Canada.

International Sommelier Guild & Court of Master Sommeliers

The ISG and CMS are the standard routes to take for those focusing on service. There is some crossover with WSET in regards to the business of wine and oenology. However, the ISG and CMS both offer comprehensive layers specific to sommeliers working in hospitality.

The biggest differentiating factor between the Guild and the Court is the Court’s option to pursue the Master Sommelier accreditation. The ISG does not offer a master level option.

GOOD FOR: all levels of service staff including sommeliers, restaurant/bar managers or owners, special event staff.

WHERE TO STUDY ISG: Visit here for a current list of planned courses in each city. Or click here for online learning options.

WHERE TO STUDY CMS: Programming is on suspension due to COVID. Visit here for updates.

Let’s Not Forget About Oenology & Viticulture

Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about those that have a passion for science and actually making the wine.

UBC offers an Introduction to Wine Science course for third year students. If you’d like something that you can hop into immediately, look at the certificate options at the Okanagan College. Studies in wine sales, winery assistance and viticulture follow through to incredible job opportunities being right in the centre of BC’s wine country.

If winemaking or viticulture is your life long passion, then you may need to consider moving out east. At least temporarily. Ontario’s Brock University is home to the Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI). It’s Canada’s only university level program for training in the sciences of Oenology and Viticulture. It’s internationally recognized and covers everything from microbiology to sensory science.

I wish you the best of luck on your path to becoming a certified wine lover. If you have any information to add or change to what I’ve mentioned above, please don’t hesitate to reach out and let me know.