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What is the difference between the CMS® Sommelier and the WSET® wine COURSES?

Updated: Sep 21, 2023

This question is often asked when people are interested in taking a wine qualification.

We can say that both CMS (Court of Master Sommeliers) and WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) are highly respected institutions in wine education. However, they are as different as a Bordeaux and a Barolo.

Here we break down how they differ in content, approach and career relevance:

CMS (Court of Master Sommeliers)

The CMS programme is a highly specialised training programme designed for hospitality professionals who wish to hone their skills in the art of wine service. With an emphasis on both theoretical and practical learning, the programme equips participants with the knowledge and expertise needed to deliver exceptional wine service that truly impresses guests.

Structure: Four levels of certification are offered:

  • CMS® Introductory Sommelier Certificate

  • CMS® Certified Sommelier

  • CMS® Advanced Sommelier

  • CMS® Master Sommelier

Examination style: The examinations are practical and service-oriented. Throughout the examination process, you will be tasked with a variety of service-oriented assessments that put your practical skills to the test. These include blind tastings, food and wine pairings and service simulations that require you to demonstrate your skills.

Geography: Although it originated in the UK, the Court of Master Sommeliers has a strong presence in the US, where it is widely recognised. However, it is often associated with Anglo-Saxon markets. A successful Netflix documentary, SOMMS, filmed in the US, shows candidates preparing for the Master Sommelier exam.

Duration: The programme can be completed faster than the WSET, provided you've got the chops to pass the notoriously difficult exams.

WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust)

WSET offers a more academic approach to wine education. Their courses cover a range of topics including viticulture, vinification, grape varieties and wine regions. While they include wine service and wine and food pairing training, the focus is on a thorough understanding of wine as a product. Students will also learn how to confidently taste and evaluate wine, making these courses ideal for those in the trade, hospitality industry or who simply love wine.

Levels: Again there are four levels:

  • WSET® Level 1 Award in Wines

  • WSET® Level 2 Award in Wines

  • WSET® Level 3 Award in Wines

  • WSET® Level 4 Diploma in Wines

Examination style: Multiple choice questions form part of the assessment process up to WSET Level 2. WSET Levels 3 and 4 also include written questions and a blind tasting.

Geography: Also based in the UK, but more internationally recognised, particularly in non-English speaking countries. It is offered in over 70 countries and translated into over 15 languages up to WSET Level 3. WSET Level 4 is in only available in English.

Duration: While you can rush through the levels, most people take their time completing them, especially before attempting the challenging WSET Level 4 Diploma, which requires extensive knowledge of wine.

In Terms of Career Relevance

CMS: If you want to work in a high-end restaurant, hotel or anywhere where service is paramount, the CMS is your ticket.

WSET: If your goals are more towards the wine trade, journalism or tourism, or you want a thorough understanding of wine theory, the WSET is a great fit.

Our Opinion

To sum up, we can say that CMS is for you if you see yourself sabering Champagne bottles in a restaurant.

If, on the other hand, you're more interested in dissecting the terroir of that champagne, then you're better off with the WSET courses. Both certifications are prestigious and can open doors in the wine world. If you want to know more details about WSET courses, visit our website, we offer courses in English and German. Cheers! 🍷


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