How to Become a Sommelier

See Yourself As The Next Top Sommelier In Africa?  

The World? Here’s How!

Not since 1994 has there been a more exciting time to be in the South African wine industry. With arguably two of the best vintages in recorded history harvested in less than a decade, many of those wines still in barrel, a thriving community of visionary winemakers constantly pushing the boundaries of excellence, and an equally flourishing community of young sommeliers defining the modern face of African wine service.

With every South African wine that makes the headlines, with every new sommelier putting their stamp on a wine program, we set the bar a little higher. It becomes harder and harder to compete in this industry without the services of a qualified professional. Now is the time to make a career for yourself!

What You Need To Know: In 2012, the South African Sommelier Association (SASA) set out to create the first internationally recognised Sommelier Accreditation Program in Africa. With the help of renowned, industry-tested, and internationally trained sommeliers, we started the long journey of writing our own syllabus and becoming a full member of The Association de la Sommellerie Internationale.

Starting from the ground up, we looked at industry models like The Court of Master Sommeliers, The Association de la Sommellerie Internationale, and the Wine and Spirits Education Trust. From this, we combined our own experience, gained from years of actively working on the floor, we argued furiously, always conscious of respecting tradition, and we finally had a concise syllabus that respects the pasts while looking to the future and preparing local sommeliers to take on the best in the world in the only internationally recognized sommelier certification in South Africa.

How It Works

Every journey starts with an end in mind, and SASA currently provides three levels of certification, namely:

SASA Junior Sommelier Level 1 ExamThe examination consists of two sections:

1. A closed book theory test with multiple-choice questions covering basic wine knowledge and wine service questions.
2. A practical dining room test is a scenario in which the candidate will need to show their ability to handle table service and basic but accurate wine service. The candidate will need to communicate accurately with the guest within the hospitality context.

The SASA Junior Sommelier Examination is open for all SASA members to sit without any prerequisites (e.g., the SASA courses or any other relevant wine qualification), under the condition that the member has accumulated his/her own opinion enough experience elsewhere to attempt the examination.

SASA Sommelier Level 2 ExamThe examination covers three sections:

1. Theory
2. Blind tasting
3. Practical dining room work.

The candidate must showcase the knowledge and expertise that is to be expected from a professional sommelier. We recommend that the candidate has a theoretical understanding of WSET Level 3 or the Court of Master Sommeliers Certified Sommelier. The SASA Sommelier examination is open to all SASA members to sit without any prerequisites, under the condition that the member has, in his/her own opinion, accumulated enough experience to attempt the examination.

SASA Advanced Sommelier Level 3 Exam

(Association de la Sommellerie Internationale Diploma)

This exam is the highest level offered internationally by the Association de la Sommellerie Internationale (ASI). It is formed around self-study with supportive mentoring from senior SASA members. It is an outcome-based level where the only requirement is to pass the examination set by the Association de la Sommellerie Internationale (ASI). The ASI diploma exam is held on the same day all over the world once a year. Since its inception, less than 500 people all over the world have successfully passed it.

The examination occurs once a year and covers:

1. A practical dining room scenario
2. A blind tasting
3. A theory test
4. Practical food and wine pairing scenario.
5. Role-playing scenario
6. short dissertation

All of the above potentially encompass the whole world of wine and other beverages such as spirits, cocktails, teas, coffee, sake, cigars, cheese, etc. A theory level in line with WSET Level 4 or the Court of Master Sommeliers Advanced Sommelier Certificate is preferred. This examination is held annually in South Africa, with successful candidates awarded the ASI International Sommelier Diploma. There are levels of the diploma Gold, Silver, and Bronze. It is preferred that the exam is done in the candidates' second language however, if it is done in the candidates' home language, the highest diploma they can achieve is bronze regardless of how well they perform.

Is WSET a Sommelier Qualification?

The short answer is 'no.' The Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET) is the world's most extensive wine and spirits courses provider and is the industry standard in more than 70 countries, with nearly 100,000 people sitting a WSET exam in the last 12 months alone. Passing a WSET qualification is strongly advised for all aspiring sommeliers because it teaches wine and spirits knowledge in an orderly, up-to-date, and structured way. However, WSET does not teach wine service, so although most top sommeliers have passed WSET at some level, you will still need to pass some service accreditation to be a certified sommelier.

The Definition of a Sommelier

A  sommelier  is  a  professional  from  the  vitivinicultural  and  catering  sectors  (restaurants,  wine  bars) wineries  or  other  distribution  channel  that recommend  and  serve  beverages  at  a  professional level. Their  field  of  activity  is  the  service  of  wine  in  the  catering  industry  or  in  establishments  selling  wine, as  well  as  the  provision  of  specialised  advice  for  those  involved  in  the  wine  market,  by  ensuring appropriates presentation  and  service  of products.   The  sommelier  has  completed  a  training  course  that  leads  to  a  university  qualification  or  other.


To enquire about Sommelier course Please contact our APP Sommeliers Academy

Sommeliers Academy was created in 2016 to meet a growing demand to deliver world class wine service and sommelier training in the fast-moving hospitality industry of South Africa. From the beginning, Sommeliers Academy has been focused on achieving positive results for all our students with more than just knowledge at the centre of our course development. As the leading Sommelier training provider in Africa, we are firmly focused on giving our students the personal skills and confidence to help them achieve their career dreams. We are now training over 400 students per year and have attracted a team of experienced international sommeliers and the most qualified facilitators the industry can offer. Sommeliers Academy offer wine knowledge courses from beginner to advanced and skills courses from Wine Ambassador to SASA Certified Sommelier, including the ASI Diploma. Courses are delivered from training centres across South Africa and Zimbabwe, with entry level courses available online. As a student of Sommeliers Academy, you can be confident that we will help you succeed on every step of your wine journey. certification  and  is  consistent  with  the definition, role  and  skills covered in  this resolution.