In order to become a working sommelier, sometimes referred to as a "wine steward," previous experience in the restaurant or hospitality industry will most likely be required, but the better career placements will depend on the level of related education or acquired certifications. A degree from a culinary school offering courses focused on wine technology or certifications obtained from professional sommelier organizations are significant employment assets. Sales, procurement and customer relations skills will also play a role in landing a position at a highly-rated restaurant or hotel.
Acquiring a knowledge of wine-making techniques, learning to distinguish between grape varieties, proficiency in wine-tasting and skill in wine-and-food pairing will help further the career of an aspiring professional sommelier. In the world of fine dining, the sommelier works at a level similar to that of a chef de cuisine or executive chef. Professional certification, at the advanced level, requires costly study and many years of experience and practice.
Sommeliers may be responsible for creating and updating a restaurant's wine list. They should also be prepared to answer questions from patrons and be able to judge the best possible match between wine varieties and budgets. Sommeliers working in heavily-booked and well-known establishments may often be expected to deal with stressful situations. Well-honed people skills and solid organizational abilities can prove to be valuable assets for sommeliers working at this level.