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How to Become a Sommelier

See Yourself As The Next Top Sommelier In Africa?  

The World? Here’s How!

The South African Sommeliers Association (SASA) is an internationally recognized organisation and member of the global sommelier body Association de la Sommellerie Internationale (ASI). Sharing the collective vision, SASA’s  mission is to raise the standard of wine knowledge and service in South Africa to reflect the benchmark of international wine service standards.

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 2010, 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.

Wine Courses

Education is the vehicle for an exciting journey into the incredible world of Sommellerie. It holds the key to growth of knowledge, never-ending opportunities and life-changing experiences. SASA is a proud advocate of continuous learning and development for sommeliers in SA.

The two educational institutions approved by SASA as its official training service providers are The Sommeliers Academy and Apeirogon Youth Development Academy. With 80 years combined industry experience, each of our Service Providers has its own dynamic and engaging wine education modules and training courses. They offer a complete theoretical and practical package to achieve the competency level for the SASA certified exams.

Browse the training courses offered by our Service Providers and select which is the most beneficial for you at this time. Should you wish to sign up for a course, reach out to Sommelier Academy and Apeirogon Youth; they would love to hear from you.


- Learn more about them here (View our Service Providers).

- See their amazing work here Sommelier Academy and Apeirogon Youth Facebook page

- Connect with them here ( /

In addition to our service providers, there are a number of wine schools that are deemed advantageous to potential exam candidates. SASA encourages prospective exam applicants to explore the multitude of learning avenues to enrich your knowledge and experience. Find the links to further resources below:


Chenin Noir -



Aspiring newcomers and developing wine stewards who are fresh in the wine service industry, may consider completing the Introductory Sommelier Exam as the first milestone.

Wine ambassadors who have expanded their pool of knowledge and built up more experience, wishing to progress to a certified professional level, may then focus their studies towards achieving the SASA Junior Sommelier Certification.

For the well-seasoned, professional sommelier with the desire to obtain expert skills and globally recognized certification, they may apply for the ASI certification 2 and a step beyond that the prestigious ASI Diploma. Click here for more detail.

Please note the Introductory sommelier exam is not a sommelier certification. Certifications begin on completion of the junior sommelier exam

SASA 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. 

How it Works


The examination consists of two sections:


  1. A closed book theory test with multiple-choice questions covering basic wine knowledge, basic wine service, general service etiquette, surface knowledge of other beverages, basic food and wine pairing and alcohol awareness

  2. An oral examination based on real-life service scenarios with a focus on basic wine knowledge and wine service 


The SASA introductory Sommelier Examination is open to all SASA members to sit without any prerequisites (i.e. having completed any other relevant wine qualification), under the condition that the member has accumulated in his/her own opinion enough experience elsewhere to attempt the examination.



Exam: R500


Annual Membership: R250 (must be a member to sit the exam)

Click HERE to become a member.


ASI Certification 1

The ASI Certification 1 is suitable for any candidate looking to validate his/her competencies and obtain an international validation of his/her sommelier skills. This Certification is the first step into the ASI exam program and compliments the SASA Junior sommelier certification with a greater focus on international wines.


Any candidate who achieves a pass rate of a minimum of 65% will be awarded a certificate. This certificate will be signed by the ASI Exam Committee Director and the ASI President and will be issued by SASA.


You must be a SASA member. To become a member, click here.


How it Works

Questions of different formats will be used:

  • Short answers, multiple choices, maps, fill-the-blanks, pictures, short descriptions, calculations... (Note that an incorrect answer may yield a penalty point for multiple choice as per the ASI Guidelines.)

  • The assessment will consist of 100 questions, yielding different points based on their complexity. The minimum pass mark is 65%.

  • The total of possible points shall be spread according to the following indicative formula:

    • Wine Knowledge 45%

    • Viticulture and Oenology 10%

    • Spirits 10%

    • Sommelier Skills 25%

    • Other Beverages 10%


Check the list of competencies here.


Exam: R750

SASA 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.

How it Works


  • A closed book theory test with multiple-choice questions covering basic wine knowledge and wine service questions.

  • 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.


Exam: R1,000


Annual Membership: R250 (must be a member to sit the exam)

Click HERE to become a member.

SASA Sommeliers 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.

How it Works

  • Theory

  • Blind tasting

  • 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.


Exam: R3,000


Annual Membership: R250 (must be a member to sit the exam)

Click HERE to become a member.

ASI Diploma (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.

How it Works

  • A practical dining room scenario

  • A blind tasting

  • A theory test

  • Practical food and wine pairing scenario.

  • Role-playing scenario

  • 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.



Exam: R7,500


Annual Membership: R250 (must be a member to sit the exam)

Click HERE to become a member.

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.

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