by Lizzy Sebuck
Getting paid to party isn’t just for cast members of The Jersey Shore. Sommeliers are paid to taste and drink wines from around the world and rate them on a 100 point scale based on their own expertise. The opinion of a Sommelier is very highly respected in the eyes of restaurant and resort owners that go to extreme lengths in order to ensure their guests have an ideal experience at their establishments, all the way down to the last sip. Hiring a Sommelier can get pretty pricey depending on their level of expertise.
How do I get this gig?
We may have exaggerated before: being a Sommelier doesn’t entitle you to be a glorified alcoholic. Sommeliers not only taste wines, they also purchase wines for differing environments. This means you have to know which wines go with what dish, in what hotel, on what continent, and in what climate; a little more complicated than just playing “slap the bag” with a box of Franzia.
Those who are interested in learning more about wines must start small. Many grocery stores, shopping malls, restaurants, and bars often hold cooking and wine tasting classes for free or a small fee. Check out your local Williams Sonoma for monthly courses, or even your nearest community college for culinary courses. The final step is passing the Master Sommelier Certification test; no easy task for Yellow Tail drinkers.
There are now 105 professionals who have earned the title Master Sommelier in North America. Of those, 90 are men and 15 are women. There are 170 professionals worldwide who have received the title of Master Sommelier since the first Master Sommelier Diploma Exam. Source.
How much am I going to make?
How much does it pay to drink wine for a living? That part all depends on you. The annual income of a sommelier depends on their level of experience and how much they personally invest in their love of wine. Sommeliers actually spend a good chunk of their own cash buying wines to perfect their craft.
The Court of Master Sommeliers recently determined that a sommelier with limited experience may earn a salary of about $28,000, while a Master Sommelier–one with extensive experience, training, and certification–can earn between $80,000 and $160,000.” Not too shabby for sniffing and sipping wine all day. Source.
A Prime Example
You really can make a career out of this! Meet Alpana, she was 21 YEARS OLD WHEN SHE WAS DECLARED A MASTER! You too can become a professional wine taster, even if you’re not 21 (just be sure to swirl and spit). Alpana Singh is the sommelier for Chicago Tonight’s television show Check, Please! She was the youngest person ever to pass the Master Sommelier Certification Test; a huge accomplishment considering that it has a 10% pass rate.
So my fellow Americans, you too can be like the French and become a professional wine guzzler with just a few lessons in the refined and an expertly sensitive palate. Becoming a Sommelier not only means big dollars for a big opinion, but, in moderation, will probably leave you in good standing against cardiovascular disease. If you want to start off small, check out our post on cheap and good wines and tell us if you have what it takes to be professional drunk, er, I mean… Sommelier.