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As many sommeliers will say, the more you know about the wine world, the more you realize how much you don’t know. There are hundreds of wine-producing regions and thousands of grape varieties, not to mention a diverse range of styles and cast of characters behind the bottles.
There are books designed to help oenophiles brush up on wine knowledge, but if you’re the kind of learner who needs organization, tutelage, and deadlines, an online class will have you well on your way to a sommelier accreditation.
Traditionally, sommelier classes were taught in person, with days of curriculums and tasting. But thanks to the digital age, the wine world has now shifted online and many of the best certifications can be earned from the comfort of your couch. There are standardized certification courses and also classes that focus on grape science or the world of Champagne. Below, find our picks for the best online sommelier classes.
Best Online Sommelier Classes of 2023
- Best Overall: Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET)
- Best Budget: Society of Wine Educators
- Best American Course: American Wine Expert
- Best for Industry Professionals: International Sommelier Guild
- Best for Sparkling Wine: Champagne MOOC
- Best Splurge: Winemaking Certification Program at University of California, Davis
- Best European: Wine Scholar Guild
Best Overall : Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET)
Founded in England, WSET is a nonprofit wine and spirits educator, recipient of a prestigious business award from the Queen of England, and an internationally-recognized resource for wine and spirits education for students at all levels.
Highly regarded international resource in industry
In-depth online portal with access to instructor and feedback
Online courses are designed to go-at-own-pace
Some higher-level course exams must be taken in-person
Online classroom courses only offered in English
Students may need to budget extra fees for beverage tastings
This is for real wine fans who are looking to go beyond wine delivery. The Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) is one of the premier wine education programs in the world, with courses offered in 75 countries and in 15 languages. Courses range in length, complexity, and specification, from single-day beginner courses to master-level diplomas on saké and spirit production.
Level one is perfect for those looking to test the waters of the wine world—the material covers the essentials, including familiar grape varieties, pairings, and storing and serving wines.
The higher tiers (Levels two through four) dive into specialist-level knowledge. Each expands on the information learned in the previous levels, covering the winemaking process, established and upcoming regions, varieties, and wine service.
Levels conclude with a standardized test via an accredited classroom—levels one and two are written assessments, while levels three and four also include tasting exams using the WSET’s highly-regarded codified wine evaluation grid. The programs require disciplined study and time commitment, but the tiers lay out a clear path for those looking to continue their wine education long-term.
Pricing varies and depends on the provider and location you choose.
Best Budget : Society of Wine Educators
Obtaining a Certified Specialist of Wine certificate via the Society of Wine Educators is a rigorous and highly sought-after accolade in the viticulture world.
Certification is well-regarded internationally
Affordable membership fees
Exam can be taken online
Various program components can be costly
Cost does not include exam study preparation materials
The Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) program via the Society of Wine Educators is a rigorous 12-week course that pushes candidates to master the world of viticulture, wine production, and knowledge.
As one of the most acclaimed programs in the industry, the curriculum covers faults, physiology of taste, wine composition and chemistry, and wine etiquette and service.
Study tools include over 800 graphic wine map flashcards and drag-and-drop exercises. There are nearly 900 digital flashcards available for purchase, as are several practice tests and quizzes based on the certified study guide and workbook.
The program is capped off with a multiple-choice exam, written through partner testing centers. Candidates who achieve at least 75% on their final exam receive a lapel pin and certificate, and are encouraged to use the CSW post-nominal.
For $135 per year, members of the Society of Wine Educators are offered online classes and monthly webinars to assist in their studies. One of the big draws of the society is the range of seminars available. For those looking for higher education, the CSW is the prerequisite for pursuing the Certified Wine Educator certification.
Best American Course : American Wine Expert
Students learn the breadth and depth of American-made wines from around the country by studying climate and market trends, with the option to order an at-home wine kit for hands-on learning.
Option to order at-home wine kit
High exam passing rate
Interactive student portal
12-month access is designed for self-starters
No live instructor
Wine is made in all 50 U.S. states, and this comprehensive certification course is dedicated to American wine regions, covering everywhere from Sonoma and Napa to more under-the-radar winemaking areas.
Students will learn about different styles and varieties that make up America’s diverse winemaking scene and the winemakers leading each region. Much of the information cultivated is exclusive to the course—the program partners with regional winemaking associations for a thorough, up-to-date curriculum.
The course pushes readers to get a working knowledge of the American wine scene, covering microclimates, geography, grape species and varieties, history, industry milestones, as well as the different appellations in key winemaking states.
Buying the self-taught course ($599) will get you 12 months of access to the online database where all materials, including interactive maps and online quizzes, are available 24/7. Each class concludes with practice and final exams, and successful candidates receive a flashy AWE certificate.
Best for Industry Professionals : International Sommelier Guild
Designed for the studious and diligent sommelier, students can tackle several levels, including the most advanced ISG Master Sommelier certification, which features a 90-week class load and a dissertation.
Offers both online and live online learning options with direct access to instructors
Offers classes in several languages
Advanced level training is very time-consuming
The more advanced courses are costly
This multi-tiered program is built for wine students of all commitments. The International Sommelier Guild (ISG) begins with the introductory Intermediate Wine Certificate (IWC), then progresses to the Advanced Wine Certificate (AWC), the Sommelier Diploma Program (SDP), and the ISG Master Sommelier certification (ISGM).
All levels cover the features of each grape varieties, how they’re grown, and how they are made into wine through extensive videos, text, online lectures, and suggested wines tastings. Each level builds on the previous program’s knowledge. Through the IWC and AWC, two sommelier instructors are available to students: one for fielding tasting questions and the other for knowledge questions.
Once students have completed intermediate-level studies, they can pursue the full ISG Master Sommelier diploma. This is a 90-week course with 202 sessions that you can complete at your own pace online. All sessions consist of a lecture, tasting, review, and an exam. This offering covers everything from business management to culinary arts and nutrition. Online students have five sommelier instructors available to guide them through each component of the course. This isn’t a course for the hobbyist—ISGM graduates are also required to pen a dissertation.
The International Sommelier Guild’s recent global expansion means the course is now offered in Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Chinese, Latvian, Turkish, Greek, Hungarian, Bulgarian, and German. Classes start at $500 and increase from there.
Best for Sparkling Wine : Champagne MOOC
If you’re looking to gain more insight into the historic art of champagne making, the Champagne MOOC module may appeal to students looking for a less time-consuming approach.
Offers a free and a low-cost module
Course is less than five hours
Videos are offered in several languages
Statement of completion available only in the paid module
Little to no interaction with teachers or other students
Champagne has a long history, filled with monks, rappers, and celebrations large and small. A course designed by the Comité Champagne—an association of trade growers and makers of the Champagne region—dives into this history and teaches vino lovers and professionals about the world’s premier sparkling wine.
The classic version of the program (free to all) covers the process of making their sparkling wine, the storied history of the product, and service notes. The premium version (roughly $59) builds on the classic one by adding extra videos, skill-testing modules, and a certification of completion.
Both levels include tasting modules. The courses are offered in English and French, with subtitles available in Italian, Spanish, Russian, German, Japanese, and Chinese.
Learning is self-paced and takes less than five hours to complete. The course content is broadly geared to appeal to wine industry professionals (think sommeliers, oenologists, merchants, and buyers), as well as enthusiasts and tourists headed to the region.
For industry members, this deep dive into Méthode Champenoise provides a solid foundation that can be applied to other sparkling wine regions.
Best Splurge : Winemaking Certification Program at University of California, Davis
This certification program is an in-depth and timely exploration of learning and mastering the art of winemaking with an 18- to 24-month time commitment.
Opportunity to network with peers
One-on-one access to professors
Free sample class is available to view
Must complete one semester of university chemistry
Catered to serious oenophiles, the winemaking certification program at the University of California, Davis covers its science, spanning the important factors of growing grapes, understanding sensory perception, fundamental analytical chemistry, and assessing the quality of wine.
For $8,810, this program is particularly aimed at the sommelier who is considering a future in winemaking or those interested in learning about wine at a chemical and microbiological level. Over 18 to 24 months, students will learn practical knowledge and techniques that will benefit their career in a vineyard winery or service setting. Students receive access to world-class instructors and the school's network of almost 300,000 alumni across the globe.
For a less extensive course of study, UC Davis partnered with Coursera for a free sensory wine course aimed at beginners, or those looking to get a feel for the program. Winemaker John Buechsenstein leads the sessions, guiding participants through how the senses interpret wines via sensory vocabulary, tasting techniques, pairings, and faults. The program concludes with a peer review.
Best European : Wine Scholar Guild
Wine students with a particular regional focus in French, Spanish, and Italian wines may appreciate this go-at-your-own-pace approach.
Live online classes with on-demand replay available
Choice available for a la carte classes, or entire series for discounted fee
Some courses require extra fee to view past curriculums
Encouraged reading supplements are not included in program fee
For students who want to focus their efforts on a particular country, the Wine Scholar Guild (WSG) offers programs specializing in vino from France, Italy, and Spain. The courses discuss regional appellations, local grape varieties, and what shapes their identities. All lessons are aided by the regional ministries of agriculture for an exceptional level of rigor.
For around $595, the program can be further specialized with regional-focused, master-level certifications. Candidates can focus on any of the major wine regions of France, including Alsace, Bordeaux, and Loire.
The WSG is friendly toward wine professionals, enthusiasts, travelers, and anyone looking to expand their knowledge. Curriculums are self-paced with reading materials and quizzes, and you can take exams via an online proctor if you wish.
For those who prefer to study in situ, the guild runs immersion study trips to European winemaking regions. All graduates leave the program with post-nominals.
For the professional wine expert or for those who yearn to be a sommelier, there are a variety of online wine courses available to increase your knowledge. Most courses result in a final exam with a special certification. Wine education platforms, such WSET—which has been awarded accolades by the British Crown—offers students an internationally known, industry-standard education. The Society of Wine Educators offers a portal into the highly rigorous Certified Specialist of Wine, which is also garnered internationally. Other wine enthusiasts may be interested in learning more about wine and production closer to their own backyards, making the American Wine Expert certification a great fit.
What Is an Online Sommelier Class?
An online sommelier class is designed to either introduce aspiring sommeliers to the landscape or to help active sommeliers refine their service skills, knowledge and palate. These classes can often be a relatively significant investment in money and time, so if you’re serious about your work or personal relationship with wine, you’re in the right place. With the right course, you can expect to learn a lot of information while tasting an obscene amount of wine.
What Kind of Supplies Will I Need for an Online Sommelier Class?
In terms of wine samples, this depends entirely on the course you’ve chosen, but you can expect to receive a list in advance of the first session along with any relevant study materials. But in general, in addition to your device, you should plan to have a notebook, a good pen or pencil, quality wine glasses (like Zalto, Gabriel-Glas or Grassl), a spittoon, water and a neutral palate cleanser such as a plate of water crackers. Index cards are also helpful if you wish to make your own flashcards to study.
Can I Get a Certification Through an Online Sommelier Class?
Most online sommelier courses do offer certifications upon completion––often, that’s what sets these apart from a general online wine class or course. Sommelier courses also tend to be much more in-depth and intense than casual wine classes.
While the world of wine requires all senses, the industry has adapted favorably to moving online. Now, you can traverse the world of wine from your couch—regardless of budget.
The above classes range from quick blanket guides on all things wine to more extensive deep dives into varieties and terroir. There are some that are highly regarded and require time and monetary commitment, and others are more fit to quickly brushing up on skills. We also included free and cost-friendly courses that narrow in on specific grape-growing regions and styles like Champagne and Loire.