Photographer Kirsten Georgi has been a wine lover for years. She started a blog, Armchair Sommelier, to expand her perspective. She dreamed to become a sommelier, but as her skills developed, Georgi realized that the role didn\u2019t quite fit. So she weighed her wine education options.\r\n\r\n\u201cThe more I learned, the more I realized how much I didn\u2019t know,\u201d says Georgi. \u201cSo, if I was going to move beyond \u2018sort-of studying,\u2019 I knew I needed organization, deadlines and a looming exam.\u201d\r\n\r\n\r\nWine & Spirit Education Trust\r\nGeorgi settled in with Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET). It offers qualifications in tiers, from one-day beginner courses to the advanced Level 4 Diploma. WSET\u2019s education is delivered via accredited classroom and online providers around the world, and all of its examinations are conducted in person.\r\n\r\nFinal exams for Level 3 and Level 4 certification require tasting evaluations, codified in the widely recognized WSET Systemic Approach to Tasting. WSET\u2019s grid, with gets more in-depth as students advance in level, classifies the sensory acts involved in drinking wine. This is beneficial for students who want to hone their palate and tasting skills. The program is growing in popularity. According to WSET, there were 14,204 U.S.-based candidates during the 2017\u201318 academic period, 24% growth from the previous period.\r\n\r\nGeorgi says that WSET offerings parallel sommelier training, but it serves students with differing goals. \u201cFigure out before you start whether you want to go the service route or more of a strictly educational route,\u201d says Georgi. \u201cRegardless, they all require disciplined study and a significant time commitment.\u201d\r\n\r\n\r\nCourt of Master Sommeliers\r\nA sommelier offers customers stewardship and service, generally in an on-premise setting. However, such expertise has value outside of that environment.\r\n\r\nTami Wong is a certified sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers, and she\u2019s had success working in restaurants and hotels. \u201cThe court includes a service aspect that most other certification programs do not,\u201d says Wong.\r\n\r\nBut the certification is versatile. Wong now serves as an ambassador for the wines of San Diego County and also works as a winery and sales representative, educator and wine judge.\r\n\r\nFor wine lovers with a deep commitment to learning, the classes offer a rich and challenging experience. \u201cA consumer or enthusiast would benefit from the breadth of information presented,\u201d says Wong, who says the program requires an intense amount of study to succeed.\r\n\r\nThe Court of Master Sommeliers study is capped by four exam levels that culminate with the Master Sommelier (MS) Diploma exam, said to be one of the world\u2019s most challenging tests. There are only 255 Master Sommeliers worldwide.\r\n\r\n\r\nInstitute of Masters of Wine\r\nAlongside the rigorous MS designation, is the Institute of Masters of Wine (IMW). There are only 379 Masters of Wine (MW) in the world currently, including Wine Enthusiast Contributing Editor Anne Krebiehl MW. These individuals have completed self-directed study in three stages in preparation for the notoriously difficult MW exam. The arrangement includes work with a mentor, a research paper and an annual residential seminar.\r\n\r\nApplication to the IMW demands the WSET Diploma or equivalent, like a bachelor or master degree in wine or top-level sommelier certification. Requirements also include three years of current and continuous professional wine involvement, a recommendation from a current MW or senior trade pro and completion of a practical and theory assignment.\r\n\r\n\r\nWine Scholar Guild\r\nFor students who prefer to focus on a particular country, the Wine Scholar Guild (WSG) offers French and Italian studies with Spanish beginning in fall 2019, all of which can be further specialized with master-level certifications for distinct wine regions.\r\n\r\nWSG offers classroom and online curriculum that\u2019s either instructor-led or independent study, both backed by reading materials, quizzes and a comprehensive manual. Exams are also conducted in-person or with an online proctor. Students are also eligible for immersion study trips and membership benefits like access to past webinars and a private forum. Nearly 30% of WSG students say that they don\u2019t work in the wine industry.\r\n\r\nJodi Kennedy Gaffey is owner and chief experience officer of The Epicurean Concierge, which offers curated French travel experiences. She enrolled in WSG Master-Level Wines of Languedoc-Roussillon study to help educate her guests.\r\n\r\n\u201cAll of the wine programs I have taken had wine professionals in them,\u201d said Kennedy Gaffey. \u201cThere is nothing preventing you from developing the same level of knowledge they possess. And remember, your classmates are there because they need to learn the same information you do.\u201d\r\n\r\n\r\nSociety of Wine Educators\r\nSociety of Wine Educators (SWE) offers a range of self-study programs. They include specialist and educator certifications in wine and spirits, as well as a hospitality and beverage specialist course. The programs culminate with a multiple-choice exam taken at testing centers, located in most major cities.\r\n\r\nThe Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) is the organization\u2019s most pursued designation, with more than 8,700 graduates. Students can utilize a study guide, flashcards, quizzes, workbook, webinars, seminars and other support materials from SWE.\r\n\r\n\u201cI love the CSW course because you can take a seminar in a region, and build on that to earn your credential,\u201d says Thea Dwelle, founder and principal of Vine Wire Consulting. Dwelle says exposure to the vineyard and winemaking research behind the CSW curriculum helps her advise clients. \u201cUnderstanding why a wine is selling\u2014the styles, variations and growing regions\u2014is a great boost.\u201d\r\n\r\n\r\nInternational Sommelier Guild\r\nInternational Sommelier Guild (ISG) course offerings begin with its eight-week International Wine Certificate which consists of six hours of study per week. Once successfully completed, students can go on to the 16-week Advanced Wine Certificate, also six hours per week, and ultimately take the 30-week, 10 hours per week, sommelier certification course. Education comes via classrooms around the world as well as online, with instructor contact and proprietary materials.\r\n\r\nNovelist Patrick Ember enrolled in an ISG program after he devoured wine books and online learning opportunities. When he\u2019d taken to quizzing himself, he knew it was time to enter a formal course.\r\n\r\nEmber used his education to write and publish Wine Runs Deep (FriesenPress, 2018), a novel set in Paso Robles\u2019s wine country.\r\n\r\n\u201cISG is a respected entity with a long history of providing quality education, and the classroom approach and access to an instructor who is a trained sommelier appealed to me,\u201d he says.\r\n\r\nLearning more about wine has significant rewards outside of formal certification. \u201cAnother reason to take a wine course is for building community,\u201d says Dwelle. \u201cI have made a lot of friends in my wine classes, and there is nothing more fun than studying with a wine from that week's class.\u201d\r\n\r\n\u201cMany who enjoy wine know very little about it, but once you begin learning, it\u2019s fascinating to understand that there are so many factors,\u201d says Kennedy Gaffey. \u201cThis knowledge is helpful in circumstances like a business dinner when you\u2019re asked to select the wine for all guests.\u201d\r\n\r\nAll options require time, dedication and money, so it\u2019s important to stay inspired. \u201cUnderstanding the growing practices, climate differences and winemaking rules and styles really opens your eyes to why wine is such a living thing,\u201d says Dwelle.