Spotlight on: Wine Education

It has been said, the more you learn about wine – the more you realize you don’t know.  Over the next few months we’ll be putting the spotlight on how local students, educational programs, and professionals who are shaping the industry.

From single-day sessions to PhDs, we’re giving you a peek at 4 institutions that immerse you in the world of wine education; from sniffing and sipping to grape-growing wine making, selling, and more.

Are there more than 4? Sure are. We don’t pretend to be experts on any of them — let alone all of them, and have provided links for further reading at the bottom of this article.


Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET)

WSET provides courses from single-day seminars for the most novice of wine fans, to a multi-level course and diploma programs. WSET may be the best place to start for enthusiasts looking to learn a bit more — but, if you’re pursuing learning for more than just fun, WSET also provides renowned preparation for careers ranging from being a sensory analyst, wine educator, roles in marketing or distribution, and much more. WSET certification is globally recognized.

With both online courses, and over 600 third-party teaching and examination centers in over 60 countries WSET offers plenty of options for completing courses, including Vine Lab Wine & Spirits Academy of Minnesota.

WSET provides a structured courses that include teaching you the requisite content. This is unlike the Court of Master Sommeliers, the next program we’ll cover next, where the majority of learning is self-guided and often relies on apprenticeship.


Court of Masters Sommeliers (CMS)

The CMS program consists of four sequential levels of certification: Introductory, Certified, Advanced, and the highest, Master Sommelier, taking on average, 7-10 years to achieve the Master level. CMS is largely geared toward the service industry and also includes emphasis on business and sales.

CMS is nationwide, including a rotation that comes to the Twin Cities as well — Introductory & Certified exams will be coming to Minneapolis this August.

While the Introductory course is taught as an all-in-one seminar and exam, advancement in subsequent levels is reliant on being entirely self-directed in study. And you’re going to need to study a lot. For more reading: Interview with a Twin Cities Sommelier.

Image Credit: Saint Paul College

Saint Paul College – Certificate Program, Wine Professional

This program covers the fundamentals of viticulture, wine making techniques, major wine regions and styles, sensory evaluation of wine, professional wine service, the business of wine, and wine marketing strategies.   While some enthusiasts do take this course, the majority are preparing for careers or advancement in the wine industry, with graduates operating in a wide range of jobs from retail opportunities to marketing, education, distribution, and more.

Located in Saint Paul, Minnesota – the course occurs exclusively in the fall, consisting of 9 credits taken sequentially over 16 weekend courses. Saint Paul College has an information session upcoming on Tuesday, April 25 at 6:00pm- more info, here.
**CORRECTION: Note, our email incorrectly stated it was on the 26.**

For more reading, we’ll be publishing a profile on Saint Paul College’s Wine Professional program in the next week!

University of Minnesota

The U of M is pretty much were its all taking place — at least, in terms of the development of cold-hardy grape varieties, and wine making techniques for them.   For more information, check out:
Department of Horticultural Science (B.S., M.S., PhD)
Department of Food Science (B.S., M.S.)

Viticulture & Enology Science & Technology Alliance

Imagine taking specialized courses, earning college credit, and expanding your understanding of the grape and wine industry from the convenience of your home or office.  The Viticulture Enology Science and Technology Alliance (VESTA) is a national grape and wine education program that combines the flexibility of online instruction; instructor guided education from industry professionals; and crucial hands on experience under the guidance of an experienced mentor at a vineyard or winery close to where you live.  VESTA is designed to come to the student within the United States or around the world.

VESTA Faculty include John Thull from the University of Minnesota – Horticulture Research Center.

Other Programs

International Sommelier’s Guild (ISG)

Institute of Masters of Wine (IMW)
(Requires the completion of a WSET Level 4 Diploma or equivalent in addition to recommendations from other Masters of Wine).

University of Wisconsin Madison
With over 450 degree programs ranging from B.S. to PhD (and several dozen relating to the wine making and grape growing)  here are a few departments to start with:
Department of Agriculture
Department of Food Science

University of Wisconsin Stout – Hospitality and Tourism
Ranked in the top 5 hospitality schools in the nation (and 10 in the world), graduates work within the national and international hospitality business, in a range of settings from operations and promotions, to culinary and restaurant careers. The program includes an introduction to wines & spirits, including study-abroad food and wine opportunities.

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About The Author

Lauren Voigt

Lauren launched Minnesota Uncorked™ to encourage exploration of wine. When she's not masquerading as a wine writer on the internet, Lauren earns her keep as a marketing specialist in the wine industry. Lauren can be reached at She is WSET Certified Level III (Distinction), a Certified Wine Professional (CWP) through Saint Paul College, and a Spanish Wine Scholar (SWS) through Vine Lab Wine & Spirts Academy.
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