Becoming a Certified Sommelier in Canada

St. Regis Wine and Spirits curates and stocks beverages from all over the world at their liquor store in Downtown Vancouver. But there are many professionals who operate behind the scenes to produce and deliver the bottles that you see on display on their shelves. A sommelier is one such position. Sommeliers have advanced knowledge of wine and food pairings, as well as expertise in other beverages and how these also relate to food. They often work in restaurants and hotels, but can also find rewarding careers at wine production and distribution companies.

Becoming a sommelier in Canada requires far more than the simple knowledge of the differences between a merlot and a chardonnay. Students pursuing a professional sommelier certification must attend a series of rigorous classes for 1 to 2 years, spend time in an actual service environment and pass many examinations. There are a few options for certification, at a provincial, national and international level.

Sommelier Education in British Columbia

The British Columbia Chapter of the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers developed a Professional Sommelier Diploma Program in 2018. In order to enroll in the program, candidates must already possess WSET Level 3 or equivalent credential.

Students progress through five modules:

• Sensory Development, Food & Wine Pairing and Wine Production
• Old World Wines
• New World Wines
• Other Beverages, Spirits, Sake and Beer
• Sommelier Management

Each module consists of 10 to 14 weekly classes.

CAPS Professional Sommelier Certification Program

Outside of BC, the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers partners with George Brown College and Niagara College to educate future sommeliers. These courses contain similar content to the classes from the BC Chapter and successful students receive a certificate recognized in 44 countries. Applicants can satisfy the prerequisite for this program with the WSET Advanced Certificate, ISG Wine Fundamentals Level 2 or completion of the Court of Master Sommeliers’ Introduction.

International Sommelier Guild

The International Sommelier Guild also provides training and certification for sommeliers. The prerequisites and course materials are largely similar to the Canadian programs. The ISG presents live classes throughout North America, including Vancouver. The guild’s online classes offer a convenient way for anyone to get started with the basics.

Any of these programs can open the door to a number of interesting careers. Students gain a mastery of global wines, including wine from BC.

As a retail outlet for liquor in Vancouver, St. Regis Wine and Spirits represents only a small facet of a global beverage industry. But they’re more than a just beer store. Their selection of fine wine can give any sommelier plenty to talk about.