A country club is not required to employ a sommelier; although, with expertise in wine tasting and pairing, wine theory and wine service, the better establishments understand the value of having a sommelier on their team. A sommelier’s main task is to help patrons select the right wines; however, working as a sommelier comes with a long list of responsibilities beyond selecting and serving wine. There are many career and industry-specific factors that can determine a sommelier’s salary, but as sommeliers become more established in the private club industry there is always room for both career and salary growth.
Sommeliers have various responsibilities in a country club. Sommeliers must build the wine list, create food and wine pairings while working closely with the chef, discuss menu content and wine lists, demonstrate an ability to sell, manage the wine portfolio, monitor the financial aspects, provide advice to patrons, train staff and stay current with industry trends. A country club with a sommelier has an improved wine service and helps to raise a club’s standards of food service.
An advanced or certified sommelier salary is competitive; however, a master sommelier salary is one of the highest in the hospitality business. The median sommelier salary across all four levels of certification is $62,000. If you’re a level 1 sommelier, you’ll make a salary of around $40,000–$50,000. If you’re a Certified Sommelier, or a level 2 sommelier, you’ll make a salary of around $60,00–$70,000. An Advanced Sommelier, or level 3 sommelier, will pull in a salary of about $70,000–$80,000.
But Master Sommeliers, or level 4 sommeliers, are in their own league. So much so, that they’re almost statistically irrelevant to the other sommelier levels. Master Sommeliers earn a median salary of $164,000. That makes sommeliers some of the highest-paid service industry professionals, but for good reason, considering there are only 269 Master Sommeliers in the world.
These averages present a starting point, but after decades of experience and joining the ranks of an elite club, these numbers could double or even triple. With these higher salaries, a sommelier has many responsibilities and is usually managing more employees for a top private club in the country with a substantial annual revenue.
Anyone who works directly with wine in a restaurant setting can label themselves a sommelier without any certification; however, a certified sommelier is far more desirable than someone claiming to know about wine. Experience, self-teaching and a good palate alone could very well get you started and land you a position in a mid-range establishment, but to be able to join a more prestigious setting (like a country club) and gain recognition, a certification can be of great help.
Salary ranges can vary widely depending on many important factors, including education, certifications, additional skills and years of experience. Like any career, the salary of a sommelier also depends on location, the size of the club and a sommelier’s background.