Become an ISG Certified Sommelier


For professionals and enthusiasts



Sommelier Certification | Sommelier Courses

The International Sommelier Guild is the professional sommelier certification body that accredits through Sommelier courses with direct instruction.

Upon successful completion of the Sommelier programs, you will become a member of the International Sommelier Guild. We strive to support the professional development of our members including a referral program for career opportunities and sponsorship of exclusive member tastings and events. You will not only graduate with a certificate that designates you as a leader in wine, you will become a part of a community that strives to help each other grow.

Intermediate Wine Certificate (IWC)Level 1, 8 weeks: $600 USD

An introductory course designed for the novice wine enthusiast lasting 24 clock hours. Whether building on an existing career in hospitality or enhancing your enjoyment of wines; the ISG IWC curriculum provides an introduction to the basic aspects of sensory evaluation that are frequently overlooked when drinking wine. You will study the different components of wine appearance, aroma, and flavor.

This course offers a basic understanding of the major grapes used for making wine and their discerning characteristics as well as an introduction to fortified and sparkling wines. You will taste wines from around the world and be introduced to fortified and sparkling wine as well. Upon completion of this course you will have learned some basic wine terminology, understand label information, introduction to appellation concepts, rudimentary service techniques as well as some of the food and wine pairing theories. The goal is for you to gain an appreciation for all types of wines and feel comfortable and confident when selecting and buying wine.

The course runs one day per week. Successful completion of IWC is required for admittance into AWC; IWC examinations may be challenged, please read our policies for further information.

Advanced Wine Certificate (AWC)Level 2, 16 weeks: $1100 USD

A 48 clock hour course designed to build on your learning from the ISG IWC. You will be exposed to all elements involved in the wine business including viticulture, vinification, and regional appellation laws.

You will begin to develop your blind tasting skills by studying old and new world wine regions as well as sparkling, fortified wines and ales. In addition, you will build on your service skills, food and wine pairing techniques, and proper storage and wine management practices. The goal of this course is to advance your understanding of wine and wine making in order to prepare you for the Sommelier Diploma Program.

The course runs one day per week. Successful completion of AWC is required for admittance into SDP; AWC examinations may be challenged, please read our policies for further information.

The following information is an outline of what the ISG considers to be general guidelines for short essay writings and the level of knowledge that is expected at the completion of AWC in order to successfully complete the examinations. We have provided two sample essays, one of a perfectly written short essay and its marking scheme and then the same question with a mediocre passing grade.

Please remember that in order to meet your educational entrance requirements for the SDP you must attain no less than 70% in each of your three examinations including the short essays. This same essay sample we have provided in the SDP page for reference of ISG expectations at the diploma level

Essay Expectations for Students

Essay sections on the ISG’s Level II and Diploma exams are important measures of a student’s understanding of the topics covered in class. Unlike multiple choice questions, which test the student’s ability to recognize correct answers to questions, the essays are designed to allow a student to demonstrate that s/he has a coherent and comprehensive understanding of a particular issue.

What is an Essay?

Students often have difficulty with essay writing. There are several reasons for this, but the primary issue seems to lay in a confusion about what an essay is. In its most basic form, an essay is a written attempt to make sense of an issue. More specifically, an essay is an attempt to make sense of an issue by taking a position and arguing for the validity of that position. A set of factual details is given in support of the position for which you are arguing.

The name typically given for the position you have taken is a thesis. In all arguments, the most important feature is a strong thesis. This is important because the factual details that are delivered are only valid insofar as they support your thesis. The thesis provides structure and coherence to your argument. Students are advised that writing a brief outline is valuable in assisting in the development of a strong thesis and supporting argument. After developing a brief outline of the factual details to be included in the essay, a thesis statement must be written. The important fact to notice here is that the thesis statement should be written after the outline has been developed.

The ISG recognizes that our students are not professional writers. However, there are minimum requirements for the essay portion of examinations to ensure a minimum level of competence for our graduates.

AWC

  • Clear, logically developed communication of an idea
  • All essays must be written in sentence and paragraph form; we will not accept bullet point answers
  • Correct spelling to a point where the instructor can clearly interpret the meaning of the word. A deduction of up to 10% of the overall mark will follow for spelling errors of essential wine related terms
  • An effort in understanding the wide variety of wine languages
  • The short essays should consist of no less than three paragraphs: a clear introduction followed by the main statements

Sample Essay Question

Compare and contrast Valpolicella DOC and Amarone della Valpolicella DOC. Consider in your response issues of location and geography, soil, grape variety, viticulture, vinification, and wine style.

Writing the Essay

After developing a brief outline, you will conclude that while Valpolicella and Amarone are derived from the same vineyards and therefore share soils, climate, viticultural techniques and grape varieties, they differ in their vinification. A statement regarding this will be your thesis.
We provide two essay samples for this question. The first speaks to all of the required elements of the question and would, therefore, receive full marks: ten points out of a possible ten. Essays which receive full marks demonstrate clear comprehension of the issue and display that comprehension in a logical, coherent way. The second is missing several required elements and would receive only six points out of a possible ten.

AWC Essay (10 point)

Though Amarone della Valpolicella and Valpolicella have much in common at the beginning of their lives —they are red wines derived from the same vineyards, for example— they emerge as stylistically very different wines. Their unique relationship is that Valpolicella is a geographic denomination and Amarone della Valpolicella applies to a specific wine style made within the Valpolicella DOC.

Valpolicella DOC is located in Italy’s Veneto region to the east of Lake Garda. The region receives both Alpine and Mediterranean influences, and the two conspire to produce a moderate climate occasionally called ‘semi-continental.’ The growing area is a series of ridges, mountain valleys, and plains where traditional Venetian grape varieties such as Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara grow on diverse soils, including volcanic basalt, tufa, and calcareous clay. Though viticultural techniques are a mix of the modern and traditional, vines in the area are traditionally trained on high structures known as pergolas. In style, the wines of Valpolicella are light to medium bodied with characteristic cherry flavors, soft tannins and medium to high acidity.

They are sometimes considered to be the great picnic wines of Italy and their lightness allows them to be served lightly chilled.
Though Amarone della Valpolicella comes from the same place and thus shares climate, soils, grape varieties, and viticultural techniques, it diverges from Valpolicella DOC when it comes to the vinification process. Amarone is produced using the appassimento process in which grapes are partially dried to concentrate their sugars and acids prior to fermentation. After the drying process, standard red wine fermentation results in a wine with high alcohol levels and, often, some of the dried fruit flavors or ‘raisiny’ notes from the drying process. Far from being a ‘picnic wine,’ Amarone is often known as a ‘meditation wine,’ a drink to accompany reflection in tranquility.

How will this be graded?


  • both wines derive from Italy’s Veneto region (1 point)
  • both are red wines (1 point)
  • three grape varieties (1 point)
  • pergola training (1 point)
  • climate semi-continental and soil various (1 point)
  • vinification and wine style for Valpolicella (1 points)
  • recognition that grapes for Amarone are dried prior to fermentation (1 point)
  • use of term appassimento and correct spelling (1 point)
  • accurate description of the process (1 points)
  • Amarone wine style (1 point)

AWC Essay (6 point)

Though Amarone della Valpolicella and Valpolicella have much in common at the beginning of their lives —they are red wines derived from the same vineyards, for example— they emerge as stylistically very different wines. Their unique relationship is that Valpolicella is a geographic denomination and Amarone della Valpolicella applies to a specific wine style made within the Valpolicella DOC.
Valpolicella DOC is located in Italy. In style, the wines of Valpolicella, which are made using standard red wine fermentation, are light to medium bodied with characteristic cherry flavors, soft tannins and medium to high acidity. They are sometimes considered to be the great picnic wines of Italy and their lightness allows them to be served lightly chilled.

Amarone della Valpolicella comes from the same part of Italy but is made differently. Amarone is produced using the appassimento process in which grapes are partially dried to concentrate their sugars and acids prior to fermentation. After the drying process, standard red wine fermentation results in a wine with high alcohol levels and, often, some of the dried fruit flavors or ‘raisiny’ notes from the drying process. Far from being a ‘picnic wine,’ Amarone is often known as a ‘meditation wine,’ a drink to accompany reflection in tranquility.

How will this be graded?

  • both are red wines (1 point)
  • vinification and wine style for Valpolicella (1 point)
  • recognition that grapes for Amarone are dried prior to fermentation (1 point)
  • use of term appassimento and correct spelling (1 point)
  • accurate description of the process (1 points)
  • Amarone wine style (1 point)

Sommelier Diploma Program (SDP)Level 3, 6 months: $4250 USD

The program is an intensive six-month course held once a week for eight clock hours. The International Sommelier Guild is the only professional body that accredits Sommeliers by direct instruction.

With our personalized approach to learning, we are not only able to tell you, but also to show you how to evaluate a wine, critique it, decant it, serve, and store it. Industry experts lead all of our lectures. The curriculum covers everything from viticulture, vinification, tasting techniques, cellaring, investment strategy, menu design, and regional analysis of wines, spirits, and ales. To ensure that your learning experience is second to none, we hold an annual conference to guarantee that each and every instructor has the latest information, research and development, new theories on food and wine pairing, and current trends in the market place. As a graduate, you will enter the industry informed and sought after.

This designation is aimed at being the defining benchmark for wine knowledge within the hospitality industry. We strive to support the professional development of our graduates including a referral program for career opportunities and sponsorship of tastings and events. Upon successful completion of the Sommelier Diploma Program, you will graduate with a diploma that designates you as a leader in wine industry with professional mobility.

The following information is an outline of what the ISG considers to be general guidelines for full essay writings and the level of knowledge that is expected at the completion of the SDP in order to successfully complete the examinations. We have provided two sample essays, one of a perfectly written essay and its marking scheme and then the same question with a mediocre passing grade.

Please remember that in order to successfully complete your diploma you must attain no less than 70% in each of your six components including your essays.

Essay Expectations for Students

Essay sections on the ISG’s Level II and Diploma exams are important measures of a student’s understanding of the topics covered in class. Unlike multiple choice questions, which test the student’s ability to recognize correct answers to questions, the essays are designed to allow a student to demonstrate that s/he has a coherent and comprehensive understanding of a particular issue.

What is an Essay?


Students often have difficulty with essay writing. There are several reasons for this, but the primary issue seems to lay in a confusion about what an essay is. In its most basic form, an essay is a written attempt to make sense of an issue. More specifically, an essay is an attempt to make sense of an issue by taking a position and arguing for the validity of that position. A set of factual details is given in support of the position for which you are arguing.

The name typically given for the position you have taken is a thesis. In all arguments, the most important feature is a strong thesis. This is important because the factual details that are delivered are only valid insofar as they support your thesis. The thesis provides structure and coherence to your argument. Students are advised that writing a brief outline is valuable in assisting in the development of a strong thesis and supporting argument. After developing a brief outline of the factual details to be included in the essay, a thesis statement must be written. The important fact to notice here is that the thesis statement should be written after the outline has been developed.
The ISG recognizes that our students are not professional writers. However, there are minimum requirements for the essay portion of examinations to ensure a minimum level of competence for our graduates.

SDP

  • Clear, logically developed communication of an idea
  • All essays must be written in sentence and paragraph form; we will not accept bullet point answers
  • Correct spelling to a point where the instructor can clearly interpret the meaning of the word. A deduction of up to 10% of the overall mark will follow for spelling errors of essential wine related terms
  • An accomplished understanding of the wide variety of languages used in the wine world
  • Comprehensive understanding of the issue at hand
  • The essays should consist of no fewer than five paragraphs; a clear introduction followed by at least four paragraphs developing the argument

Sample Essay Question

Compare and contrast Valpolicella DOC and Amarone della Valpolicella DOC. Consider in your response issues of history, location and geography, soil, grape variety, viticulture, vinification, and wine style.

Writing the Essay


After developing a brief outline, you will conclude that while Valpolicella and Amarone are derived from the same vineyards and therefore share soils, climate, viticultural techniques and grape varieties, they differ in their vinification. A statement regarding this will be your thesis.
We provide two essay samples for this question. The first speaks to all of the required elements of the question and would, therefore, receive full marks: ten points out of a possible ten. Essays which receive full marks demonstrate clear comprehension of the issue and display that comprehension in a logical, coherent way. The second is missing several required elements and would receive only six points out of a possible ten.
You should notice that at the Diploma level, we expect students to possess deeper knowledge of some of the variations and issues affecting the relationship between the DOCs.

SDP Essay (10 Point)

Though Valpolicella and Amarone della Valpolicella are derived from the same geographical area, the wines are radically different in style. Amarone is in fact a DOC applied to the stylistic variation introduced by the familiar Italian appassimento process—the process of partially drying grapes prior to fermentation. Wines produced using the appassimento process are known as passito wines, and the style is common in many Italian regions. Despite its relative youth in the international marketplace—it was first marketed by Bolla in the 1950s—Amarone is likely Italy’s best known example of the style. Amarone is, quite specifically, the dry-fermented variation (as distinguished from the sweet Recioto della Valpolicella or the medium sweet Amandorlato), and the derivation of the name, from Italian Amaro or ‘bitter,’ suggests much about the wine’s ultimate flavor profile.
The Veneto’s Valpolicella DOC is at once one of Italy’s simplest and most diverse. This may seem a contradiction, but one of the things that distinguishes this DOC is its multifaceted approach to vinification. Though the raw materials are similar for Valpolicella and Amarone, the finished products are radically different. Those raw materials are the holy trinity of Venetian black grapes—Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara—grown either on the traditional high-trained pergola or more modern post and wire trellises. Though there is a large supporting cast, including grapes like Dindarella and Negrara, and even permitted Internationals (at 5 %), Corvina remains the most prominent of the Veneto’s varieties. Corvina, which typically appears at anywhere from 40-70 % of the blend is prized for its floral and cherry aromatics and the thick skin that contributes stability during the drying process. Small-berried Rondinella is also a popular drying grape because it typically dries faster than Corvina, and thereby reduces risk to the producer.

The stylistic diversity of the region is potentially a source of confusion, and it is not without a certain political component that complicates matters even further. Valpolicella DOC (like its neighbor Soave) is one of the DOCs whose boundaries were redrawn in the 1960s, primarily to accommodate the commercial needs of large scale Italian producers. The original growing area sits on a series of ridges and mountain valleys in the 4 valleys of Garganago, Fumane, Marano, and Negrar, which today represent the Classico zone; after 1968, however, the DOC was extended into the plains or pianura below. This effectively doubled the available land and added much alluvial land to the more prized volcanic basalt (locally known as toar), tufa, and calcareous clays of the Classico zone.

In some ways, the stylistic differences between Amarone and Valpolicella normale are mirrored here. Valpolicella is the high volume basic wine of the area, typically produced from the earliest harvested fruit and made in a bright, light to medium-bodied style. Some producers have had success with carbonic maceration to lift the fruit and reduce the characteristically high acidity of the wine, and this seems to emphasize the divide between basic Valpolicella and Amarone. Valpolicella is the cheap and cheerful Beaujolais of Italy; what Beaujolais is to the French bistro, Valpolicella is to the Italian trattoria. This is not to say, of course, that there aren’t serious Valpolicellas sitting alongside the basic ones I’ve described. But they are the exceptions, not the norm.

A partial solution to the issue of Valpolicella’s lightness and use of second best fruit, has been the development of the Ripasso method in which a fully fermented Valpolicella is passed over the lees of an Amarone fermentation. This re-passing inspires a small fermentation and allows the light Valpolicella to extract flavor and body from the Amarone lees.

What distinguishes Amarone here is that it is invariably serious. The expense and the technology required to produce Amarone compel a relatively high price tag, and higher price tags invariably come attached to higher consumer expectations. The appassimento process involves the manual harvest of perfect bunches of fruit and, because the goal of the process is to concentrate sugars in the grapes, most producers will typically leave grapes on the vine longer in order to begin the process with higher sugar levels and reduce drying time (and their own risk). Grapes are transported to special warehouses where they are laid out on straw or bamboo mats, or, more often today, stacked in wood or plastic boxes. In the past, producers typically relied on the prevailing winds to provide the air flow through their facilities (air flow is essential to reduce rot development and speed evaporation), but today most facilities are equipped with fans and even dehumidifiers. In the early stages of the process, producers check the bunches regularly for the development of rot—though when the rot is noble, some producers are quite willing to allow it into the wine. This, indeed, along with grape variety, length of appassimento, and post-fermentation maturation, is one of the factors which distinguishes one Amarone from the next.

How will the Essay be Graded?


  • accurate description of appassimento process with mention of passito and correct spelling (2 points)
  • accurate listing of three primary grape varieties, at least one secondary, and the primary role of the major grapes (2 points)
  • demonstrated understanding of the commercial history of Amarone as well as historical issues related to the Valpolicella DOC (1 point)
  • accurate description of Valpolicella’s location, soils, climate, viticulture (1 point)
  • description of qualitative issues in Amarone production (rot, length of appassimento, maturation) (1 point)
  • accurate description of Ripasso process (1 point)
  • Valpolicella wine style (1 point)
  • Amarone wine style (1 point)

SDP Essay (6 Point)

Though Valpolicella and Amarone della Valpolicella are derived from the same geographical area, the wines are radically different in style. Amarone is in fact a DOC applied to the stylistic variation introduced by the familiar Italian apasimento process—the process of partially drying grapes prior to fermentation. Wines produced using the apasimento process are known as pasito wines, and the style is common in many Italian regions.
The Veneto’s Valpolicella DOC is at once one of Italy’s simplest and most diverse. This may seem a contradiction, but one of the things that distinguishes this DOC is its multifaceted approach to vinification. Though the raw materials are similar for Valpolicella and Amarone, the finished products are radically different. Those raw materials are the holy trinity of Venetian black grapes—Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara. Valpolicella is the high volume basic wine of the area, typically produced from the earliest harvested fruit and made in a bright, light to medium-bodied style.
What distinguishes Amarone here is that the expense and the technology required to produce Amarone compel a relatively high price tag, and higher price tags invariably come attached to higher consumer expectations. The apasimento process involves the manual harvest of perfect bunches of fruit and, because the goal of the process is to concentrate sugars in the grapes, most producers will typically leave grapes on the vine longer in order to begin the process with higher sugar levels and reduce drying time (and their own risk). Grapes are transported to special warehouses where they are laid out on straw or bamboo mats, or, more often today, stacked in wood or plastic boxes. In the past, producers typically relied on the prevailing winds to provide the air flow through their facilities (air flow is essential to reduce rot development and speed evaporation), but today most facilities are equipped with fans and even dehumidifiers. In the early stages of the process, producers check the bunches regularly for the development of rot—though when the rot is noble, some producers are quite willing to allow it into the wine. This, indeed, along with grape variety, length of apasimento, and post-fermentation maturation, is one of the factors which distinguishes one Amarone from the next.

How will the Essay be Graded?

  • accurate description of appassimento process with mention of passito (1 point; point deducted for spelling)
  • accurate listing of three primary grape varieties (1 point)
  • description of qualitative issues in Amarone production (rot, length of appassimento, maturation) (1 point)
  • Valpolicella wine style (1 point)
  • Amarone wine style (1 point)

Teacher Education Program (TEP) $500 USD

You must be registered and logged in to apply for this course. Click here to register. Once registered please login and return to this page.

Introduction
The Teacher Education Program has been developed due to a fundamental need to establish minimum competencies for ISG instructors.

The dynamic and ever changing world of wine presents a unique set of challenges even for the most experienced professional. The program is aimed at addressing the needs and supplying the tools to future and current instructors so that the quality of delivery of all levels of ISG courses is at the forefront of wine education.

Objectives of the Program
Establish minimum competencies, standards and guidelines for ISG instructors in the following areas:

  • Overall expectations of ISG instructors and ISG administration
  • Site preparations
  • Preparing to teach
  • Gathering information
  • Examination requirements and review
  • Class presentations and workshops
Delivery of the Program
The Teacher Education Program is delivered as a three (3) day seminar offered once per year in August in one select city.

Who will attend?

  • Potential instructors will have been selected based upon their meeting the requirements as outline by the ISG
  • Current instructors who wish to enhance their capabilities
Entrance Requirements
  • Must have successfully completed the IWC and AWC courses*
  • Must have successfully completed the Sommelier Diploma Program*
  • Demonstrate a minimum of five (5) years hospitality experience (preferably front of the house)
  • Demonstrate a minimum of three (3) years teaching experience (not necessarily in a classroom scenario; however it must be in an acceptable training or instructional environment)
  • Demonstrate a Post Secondary Degree (does not have to be hospitality related)
  • Provide a current resume with detailed educational and work experience
  • Provide a cover letter outlining why you would like to take the program (1,000 words or less)
  • Provide an industry reference letter (hospitality reference preferred)
  • Provide an educator reference letter (from outside of the ISG organization is preferred)
  • * Applicants not having attained the IWC / AWC certificates and/or the SDP may be considered on a case by case basis. Please outline your case in your cover letter and all applications are reviewed by the Dean of Academics and the Advisory Committee.
Certificate of Completion

All educators that have successfully completed the program will receive a certificate of completion from the ISG and will be added to the roster for possible instruction of the IWC courses.

Costs
$500.00 US per person (does not include transportation and accommodations which are the responsibility of the applicant)

Fundamentals of Wine (FWC)Introduction, 1 day

A one day course designed for the hospitality industry lasting 8 clock hours. 

This course offers a basic understanding of the major grapes sold commercially and understanding them and how to sell them within the hospitality industry. The course also focuses on basic service techniques for restaurants and hotels of most levels.

The class takes place over the course of one day and there is no examination component involved but rather a certificate of attendance. This course is designed for hotel and restaurant chains where large groups of employees can get the basic understanding to provide professional service as well as sell products.

Although at the moment the course is available strictly to large groups in South America, the Middle East, Asia and some locations in North America, this course may be demand be offered in any location upon demand.  

If you are inquiring on behalf of a Hotel or Restaurant, please contact us directly. This course is not available to individuals and is not a pre-requisite to our first course of instruction.