The top 3 exam routes open to candidates wanting to learn more about wine are all worthy programs, each with specific intent. Here is a snapshot of each.
Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET)
Meant for leisure and professional students alike, the WSET program takes an academic approach to wine. The program is gear toward developing an understanding of wine, so one may share this knowledge with others or put it to good use during their daily life. Many distributors, retailers, importers, auction houses, hotels, and restaurants send their employees through this program.
Court of Master Sommeliers
If you want to call yourself a Certified Sommelier or are interested in becoming a table-side sommelier, then this is the course for you. The course is mainly self-study and the exams incorporate a fair amount of table service. Geared for those wanting to work in a restaurant or hospitality industry, the program requires candidates to memorize wine laws, grapes, regions and topographical features. Whether you sit for the Intro Level, Certified Sommelier Level or the Advanced Level, all immersion lectures are all lead by Master Sommeliers. Many large restaurant organizations send their employees through this program.
Society of Wine Educators
An American-based program of study, the Society of Wine Educators offers a well-developed course of study leading to the Certified Wine Specialist award. The organization has developed a coursebook and online study to help candidates negotiate their way through the material covering grape growing, winemaking, as well as the main wine regions of the world. Many distributors and importers are requiring their sales force to sit for this exam. Successful candidates are permitted to use the CWS post-nominal.