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. A certified sommelier requires some level of formal education, training and experience—and earning certification through the Court of Master Sommeliers (CMS) is a top choice for those who plan to work in a restaurant setting.
The Court of Master Sommeliers is a four-tiered program of educational courses and examinations that are geared at preparing students to work within the hospitality industry as certified sommeliers. An Advanced Sommelier is someone who has passed the Level 3 Advanced Sommelier Course and Examination. The Advanced Sommelier Certificate course is intended for those with extensive wine service experience and who wish to develop their knowledge and service skills to a higher level. This level is significantly higher than the Certified Sommelier Certificate, and it is necessary to carry out considerable study in preparation for this course.
The Advanced Sommelier Examination tests CMS’s standards in beverage and sales and service. The examination represents a significant increase over the Certified Sommelier Examination in required experience, knowledge and skill level. To qualify for the course, applicants must be a Certified Sommelier, have a minimum of two years of restaurant service experience, and have not previously taken the Advanced Sommelier course. To qualify for the assessment, applicants must have taken the Advanced Sommelier three-day course, have a minimum of three years of restaurant service experience, and be currently employed in the hospitality or beverage industry.
Applicants should wait at least one calendar year after passing the Certified Sommelier Examination in order to adequately prepare for the Advanced Sommelier Course. The expectation is students prepare by studying the assigned material before attending the three-day Advanced Sommelier Course and Examination. The course explores CMS standards in beverage sales and service in greater depth. It is a presentation of specific topics designed to give candidates a template for upper-level exam study and a clear understanding of expectations at both the Advanced Sommelier Examination and Master Sommelier Diploma Examination. After that, students sit for the three-day Advanced Sommelier examination.
The examination consists of three sections, a written theory exam, verbal tasting exam and a practical service and salesmanship exam. Candidates must achieve a minimum of 60% on each section within one calendar year. Candidates who are unsuccessful in passing the Advanced Sommelier Examination after three successive attempts, despite passing one or more sections, are required to wait one full year from the time of their examination before reapplying. About 25-30% of all students who sit for the Advanced examination pass, which then qualifies them to sit for the evaluation to become a Master Sommelier.
Advanced Sommeliers have various responsibilities in a dining establishment. Advanced 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 and train staff. While a dining establishment is not required to employ a sommelier with credentials, the better establishments understand the value of having an Advanced Sommelier on their team.