Final Exams


Most students are finishing up the school year right now, and the pressure is on.

This coming weekend, my current class of Sommelier students will be taking their level 3 final exams. Talk about pressure. You can't imagine how much information there is to review and study prior to these final exams.

As most of you know, not only am I a Sommelier, but I am a certified wine educator too. I have been teaching classes for the International Sommelier Guild (ISG) for the past couple years. I teach level 1 (beginner), Level 2 (intermediate or Wine Steward Certification) and Level 3 (Advanced Diploma, Sommelier Certification).

My current class started their studies back in October, and minus a few holiday breaks, have been meeting every Sunday for 8 hour classes, over the past 8 months. We cover all wine subjects: viticulture, viniculture, tasting, service, regions, history and food pairing.

The level 3 class has a number of exams that they will need to pass. A passing grade is 70% on each individual exam. If you don't get at least 70% on any of the exams, you will need to retake that particular exam to earn your certification.

There are five main exams (two of which are split between midterms and finals). Some of the most difficult exams are the essays. These are split into five midterm essays and five final essays. To give you an example of these essays, see if you would be able to answer these:


Compare and contrast the following wines: Brunello di Montalcino and Carmignano. Your commentary should include grape varieties, blending options, particular climatic influences, soil, vinification methods, and aging requirement.


Compare the effect of climate, soil, vinification and grape variety on Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc versus Pouilly Fume. Describe the typical characteristics of each.

 Okay....now imagine having ten essays like that.

The second exam has to do with food pairing and the job of a Sommelier. This is broken into two portions. The first is given at the midterms, and it consists of two short answer essay questions about restaurant service, staff training, and inventory control. The second portion of the exam is given as a final exam, and it consists of two wine pairing menus (classic menu and contemporary menu). Each menu has five courses (appetizer, appetizer, main, cheese, dessert). The students are required to suggest wines for each item (including name, vintage, grape) and justify their pairing. The classic menu requires one French wine and one other Old world wine for each course. The contemporary menu requires two new world wines for each course. Each course is a progression, so the choice of wines must be made so that each wine stands on its' own.

The third exam involves creating a restaurant. Each student is given a $20,000 budget to create a wine inventory. They must create the restaurant, food and wine menu, staff training program, and two wine pairing dinners. This is a project they have been working on for the last 8 months. Now they will be bringing this to the final exams, and present their restaurant to a guest Sommelier, who will act as a guest in their new restaurant. They must go through a full service, as the Sommelier in the restaurant, helping with wine choices for the food on their menu, and doing a full sparkling wine service as well as a decanting service

The fourth exam is a blind tasting. Not just any blind tasting, but 22 wines/spirits. The first round will consist of 3 sparkling wines, then 6 white wine, 6 red wines, and 7 other beverages (including spirits, beer, fortified wines, and 2 faulty wines). They must write down accurate tasting notes including appearance, nose, palate, and their conclusion as to the grape, country and subregion. Again, 70% accuracy is required to pass.

The fifth and final exam is a 200 multiple choice exam. While this might sound easy, there is so much subject matter that can be covered here, it is virtually impossible to anticipate all the potential questions that could be asked. For example, how would you do on these questions?

 1. The term appassimento refers to what process in the production of Amarone della Valpolicella DOC?



a) The air-drying of picked gapes for months before they are pressed

b) The use of demi-muid barrels in the aging of Amarone

c) The botryitization of grapes in the humid valley floor of Valpolicella

d) The addition of sugar for a resulting sweetness in the wine



2. What is the difference Between Le Montrachet and Chassagne-Monhachet?

a) The first is a Grand Cru level wine, and the second is a village level wine

b) The first is the name of a famous single vineyard, and the second is the name of the actual village it is in

c) The first only produces white wine, the second also produces a little red wine in addition to white wine

d) All of the above



3. Which of the following terms translates as “pure rice sake”?

a) Nigori

b) Junmai

c) Ginjo-shu

d) Honjozo-shu

So how did you do? Only three questions, and the answers are a, d, b


Are you ready to become a Sommelier? Ever dreamed of being one? Then you need to read a lot, and start taking courses. It is a long road, but a great education and payoff. You just need to be able to handle the stress of the exams.

Good luck to my students this coming weekend. You have all studied hard, and should be well prepared to pass the two days of testing.


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