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Wine School Breaks the Code During Pandemic 


Wine School of Philadelphia is first in world to offer online sommelier certification. 

When the pandemic temporarily closes a local sommelier school, what happens to its employees? They take the show on the (virtual) road! But can sommelier classes be taught online? 

“There is a reason this hasn’t been attempted before,” says Alana Zerbe, the Director of Wine Education for the Wine School of Philadelphia. “Training people to be able to blind taste via Zoom was  universally thought to be impossible.” 

The online wine program includes sixteen classes, at-home guided wine tastings. online textbooks, and  a series of four sommelier exams. The classes are streamed live from Philadelphia with Alana Zerbe as  the featured instructor.  

Using their proprietary process, the Wine School can test and certify sommelier candidates remotely.  Development of the process took years. The breakthrough only came during the pandemic, when the  school was forced to innovate due to the shutdowns.

“If this didn’t work we were going to have to travel to student’s houses and proctor exams in PPE.” She continued, “That would have been a logistical nightmare.” 

Success was followed by months of analytic trials with actual sommelier candidates. The results were  stunning: the online sommelier programs were as effective in training and certifying wine professionals as in-person training. 

A fantastic byproduct of this innovation is lower pricing. The school is offering its online programs at  half of what the in-person programs cost. The Online Core Sommelier Certification program is priced  at US$550, down from the US$1,100 price tag of its in-person program. 

The first classes open to the public begin in January. 

The Wine School of Philadelphia developed this sommelier program in tandem with the National Wine  School, which Alana Zerbe is a director. 



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