What does it take to become a Certified Specialist of Wine?
Updated: Jun 13, 2019
It's official! I registered to take the CSW exam! I have exactly one year from the date I registered, which was April 30th, 2019. I'm hoping to take it sometime this Fall. We'll see how prepared I am by then. Many have asked me why I decided to go the CSW route vs. studying to become a Sommelier. Bottom line is I only care about wine.
Sommelier's work primarily in the restaurant industry. They require more extensive training in hospitality and service as well as beer and spirits. There are 4 levels to becoming a Master sommelier. To reach the prestigious, elite Master level you must undergo an extremely challenging process. It is so challenging in fact that there are only about 150 people in the WORLD who obtain the Master title and only about 350 who obtain the level 3 advanced title. Some even say it is even more challenging than becoming a lawyer. If you are interested in learning more about becoming a sommelier you can find out information on the Court of Master Sommelier website. I also highly recommend reading Cork Dork, by Bianca Bosker. In her book she brings the reader (or listener as it is also available on audible) into the world of sommeliers in New York City. I have to say it was one of the most fascinating books I've read in a while! The Somm series on Netflix is very educational on the whole process as well.
While I admire those that choose that route, I do not see myself working in the service industry in the future. My purpose for becoming a CSW is simply passion for wine knowledge. I find myself wanting to know more about wine anytime I learn a small piece of it. And so far, what I've learned is that it is a huge learning curve! There is so much to learn about wine including growing processes, regions, varietals, wine composition and chemistry, laws of wine making, physiology of taste, and pairings.
So what does it take to become a CSW? Well, it takes passing a very rigorous exam. The CSW exam is offered by the Society of Wine Educators. It is widely recognized and regarded internationally. The exam is 100 questions and I'll have only 1 hour to complete it. According to the Society of Wine Educators about 50% of people fail it the first time. However, the Society does offer an online 12 week course. It is not a requirement to take the course but 90% of people that do take the course pass the exam on the first try. The other option is to simply study from the study guide self-directed. I may have been born on April Fool's Day but I'm no fool! I absolutely plan on taking the course. The course starts June 3rd. They are weekly webinars every Monday. My plan is to study my ass off every day (during nap-time). This should give me a good 1-2 hours a day while my son sleeps. Luckily, as a school psychologist I have summers off and will have the time to study. When school starts back in the Fall I will have to switch up my study routine to evenings, which will make for long days. But only for a few weeks as the course ends mid-September. Wish me luck!
If you are interested in becoming a certified specialist of wine find out more at the Society of Wine Educators!
Other resources for those just wanting to learn more about wine are the Wine Folly Magnum Edition and the Wine Bible. Both are quick resources for the novice or industry people alike. Start by taking some good tasting notes and reference these books as you taste!