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

You too can start your Sommelier journey by successfully completing one of our Sommelier exams. Exams are open to anyone, any service industry professional. One does not need to compete one level to advance to the next. There are no prerequisites to do the courses. We however recommend that candidates do preparation courses with our APP's, have completed wine courses with educational institutions like WSET and the Cape Wine Academy and have hospitality experience especially with the more advanced courses.

Introductory Sommelier Certificate

Aimed at any service professional looking to learn the basic skills of professional beverage service. Will require a basic knowledge of wine, South African wine regions and wine service. 

Junior Sommelier Certificate

Aimed at service professionals with experience in the trade looking to formalise their skills with a qualification. Will require competent knowledge of South African wine, basic knowledge of international wine, competent understanding of professional service and be able to perform complex service tasks.

SASA Sommelier Certificate

Aimed at experienced service professionals looking to take their career to the next level with a recognised sommelier certification. Requires advanced knowledge of South African and international wine. Advanced service knowledge and ability to complete advanced service tasks. Knowledge of non wine beverages including tea, water, coffee spirits, beer and soft drinks.

SASA Advanced Sommelier (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.