Path for CMS Students

Court of Master Sommeliers and WSG Programs

Building on our overview of how Wine Scholar Guild programs can complement and be articulated with other, more general wine study programs, we would like to propose a deeper look at our understanding of how Court of Master Sommelier (CMS) and Wine Scholar Guild programs can complement each other.

Court of Master Sommelier Programs/Levels:

The Court of Master Sommeliers (CMS) offers the most recognized and respected path for those who aspire to be a sommelier. Its educational programming has four levels of certification - each being a pre-requisite to enter the next level - leading toward the coveted “Master Sommelier” certification.

Level 1: Introductory Sommelier Certificate

This is the starting point for anyone looking to become a Master Sommelier.  The 2-day course covers: viticulture and winemaking fundamentals, grapes varieties with their origin and specificities, fundamental spirits knowledge, wine classifications and wine quality, wine service, food and wine pairing essentials as well as introductory wine tasting techniques.

Level 2: Certified Sommelier

The Certified Sommelier program tests and certifies that the student has the level of wine knowledge and service skills expected from an on-the-floor wine professional.  The one-day exam has three sections: Blind wine Tasting, Written Theory and Wine Service.

There are no official wine education courses or tastings offered to prepare for this exam.

Level 3: Advanced Sommelier Certificate

The Advanced Sommelier program is a significant step up from level 2 and successful wine students must demonstrate advanced general wine knowledge and excellent sommelier skills.
Enrolment is by application only and a minimum of 5 years of experience in beverage hospitality is recommended.  Applicants may also be requested to take an online test as part of the application process.

Students are required to attend a 3-day training course, conducted by Master Sommeliers, and must also complete extensive independent study.  The examination is held over 3 days and is composed of three sections: Blind Tasting, Theory and Wine Service.

Level 4: Master Sommelier Diploma

This is the Holy Grail in the world of sommeliers.

Enrolment is open to Advanced Sommelier graduates and is by application only.  The Master Sommelier examination is in 3 parts: Theoretical Knowledge, Practical Tasting and Practical Service.  The Theoretical Knowledge must be taken and passed first.  Success on this portion opens the doors to the remaining two parts of the exam.  Only about one tenth of candidates pass the theory exam and it often takes 2 or 3 years for candidates to pass all three portions of the exam required to become a Master Sommelier

How Wine Scholar Guild Complements the CMS Program

CMS Level 1

A workbook is provided to CMS level 1 students and several wine encyclopedia are recommended for candidates to study from.

This being said, repetition and deepening can help students of general wine study program such as CMS level 1 to integrate and absorb the large amount of information required for them to master.

WSG member webinars, led by wine industry experts, cover the fundamentals of viticulture, winemaking, grape varietieswine tasting and wine service.  Webinars such as “Viti 101” and "Postmodern Winemaking" can be valuable resources to students preparing for general wine study programs like Introductory Sommelier.

Post CMS Level 1 & 2

CMS level 1 and 2 certifications will give wine students a strong foundation to enter our Wine Scholar Programs and Master-Level programs from a position of strength. While not a pre-requisite, we encourage students to follow a program such as the CMS' Level 1 or 2 before entering our Wine Scholar Programs and Master-Level programs.

CMS Level 2   

CMS level 2 is all self-directed study and the country-specific Wine Scholar programs can help you develop a deep understanding of the key regions of FranceItaly and, soon, Spain. In our Wine Scholar programs, each country’s foundation unit puts that country’s history, wine laws, grape varieties, viticulture, and winemaking practices into perspective before covering each of the individual wine regions with respect to regional history, climate, topography and soils, appellations, wine styles, and regional food and wine pairings.

Optional, in-class tastings provide the opportunity to build familiarity with key wine styles.

If you want to challenge yourself further, WSG Master-Level programs give the opportunity to independently study one of the classic wine regions of the world  like BordeauxBurgundy and Champagne – perhaps one that has always fascinated or confused you?

Membership in the WSG provides access to our ongoing series of webinars, always led by industry experts and covering a range of topics that will help keep you current and engaged.

CMS Levels 3 & 4

If you have not taken the Wine Scholar programs earlier, do it now!  They provide a wealth of critical information about FranceItaly and, soon, Spain

The WSG Master-level programs build on the Wine Scholar Programs and will allow you to master the complexity of specific regions.  The programs cover appellations, climate, geology, grape varieties, wine law, regional cuisine and trends.  This is essential information at this level and a great complement to advanced CMS studies.

Membership in the Wine Scholar Guild allows access to webinars with leading industry experts and which provide a unique opportunity to gain insight into current wine trends and issues. They serve as an essential tool to building a knowledge base expected at these advanced wine education levels.

WSG study trips are led by regional experts and allow you to “get up close and personal” with all the important wine regions, like BordeauxBurgundy and Champagne.  These are an unparalleled opportunity to really master and understand the complexities of a wine region.




"I feel that the Court of Master Sommeliers and Wine Scholar Guild work hand in hand. I am confident that with the preparation on French theory with FWS it will prepare me for the Court of Masters level 3 and 4" Matt Coleman, General Manager & Sommelier @ Crossings Restaurant in South Passadena.
Full Interview


Explore in greater detail how WSG programs fit with the offerings of the leading general wine education bodies:



NOTE: We have tried to describe CMS programs to the best of our knowledge and research and to explain how our programs complement them. These statements reflect our own opinion and do not reflect the opinion or endorsement of the CMS. We welcome all comments and suggestions on this article.

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