In reality, the choice of best sommelier course is not only between AIS or FISARbut there are many other associations in Italy and abroad, such as WSET. Furthermore, one must not forget ONAValthough it is not suitable for those who want to become a sommelierbut is rather recommended for those winelovers who wish to delve into the wine tasting. The choice between FISAR or AIS, however, does not have an unequivocal answer: both are valid sommelier courses and, having finished analysing the peculiarities of the two associations, there remains an irrational component that tips the scales in one direction or the other. You could say it is a bit like falling in love: with a person, a place, a pin, a value.

AIS or FISAR? Here's how to choose the best sommelier course!

Before trying to figure out whether it is better AIS or FISAR, it is necessary to understand what parameters need to be taken into account when making a choice:

  • Quality of the courseMake sure you choose a course that is approved or recognised by a reputable sommelier association. In addition, it can be useful to look for reviews from former students and ask people who have already completed the sommelier course to get an idea of the quality of the lessons and the lecturers who delivered them.
  • Course duration and modalitiesSome sommelier courses are very intensive and may last only one week, while others may be more extensive and last from several weeks to several months, even spread over several years. This is why it is essential to choose a sommelier course that best suits your lifestyle and the time you have available to have a better chance of successfully completing it. Choose a course that suits your lifestyle and available time. Don't forget that since Covid-19, many associations have also organised online sommelier courses that can be very convenient.
  • CostThe cost of sommelier courses can vary considerably from a few hundred to thousands of euros. This is why it is useful to make an accurate price comparison and also to consider any additional expenses, from the cost of books and supporting teaching materials to the cost of travelling to the course venue in the case of face-to-face lessons.
  • Career opportunitiesAlthough many aspiring sommeliers choose to take the course purely for passion, the right sommelier course can become the first step towards a career in the wine world. In any case, it is important to take advantage of all the contacts and opportunities that the course gives and to favour courses that offer internship opportunities that can help one enter the sector.

AIS or FISAR? Here's how to choose the best sommelier course!

The Associazione Italiana Sommelier (AIS) and the Federazione Italiana Sommelier Albergatori Ristoratori (FISAR) are currently the only two associations recognised by decree of the President of the Republic. Born from a rib of AIS, the Italian Sommelier Foundation (FIS) was recognised by a decree of the Prefect of Rome in 2014, but since it does not have the same recognition as its predecessors, we have chosen not to examine it in this article.

The sommelier course is not a university course and the lessons are calibrated to be taken by all wine enthusiasts of age regardless of their level of education.

Sommelier AIS or FISAR difference

The educational programme of AIS and FISAR is very similar and therefore there are no particular differences between an AIS sommelier and a FISAR sommelier. Both are two excellent alternatives for becoming a sommelier in Italy and the choice can also be made 'from the heart'. Admittedly, the Italian Sommelier Association has a longer history, a larger number of members and could be described as more 'emblazoned', but certainly FISAR is the direct competitor of AIS. A further criterion for choosing could be to compare the benefits reserved for members of both associations.

AIS or FISAR? A consideration.

Starting a sommelier course of this type, i.e. one that has three levels and requires a certain investment of time and money, is not something to be taken lightly. You may hear from weirdoes who - coincidentally - have never done or completed any sommelier course that doing a sommelier course is pointless. Often these are the same people who urge you to spend your money on bottles and cellar visits. Of course, it is essential to drink and talk to producers to educate oneself, but it is absolutely useless to do so before one has built a solid educational foundation. Buying an important bottle of wine without having studied first is like pretending to write without having learnt grammar. You can do it, but you will hardly have a satisfactory if not excellent result.

Mind you, this does not mean that having obtained the sommelier diploma is a guarantee of the culture of the person in front of you. Rather, it should be considered as an initial screening, to be integrated with other parameters depending on the role in which the sommelier works. Of course, not having a diploma is worth 0, and between 0 and 1, 1 is always better... isn't it?

If you do not have job ambitions, but intend to attend a sommelier course purely for passion, you may consider studying a sommelier manual first and postponing the AIS or FISAR course to a later date. Starting with a good book is in fact an excellent way not only to approach wine and lay a solid foundation that can then help one become a sommelier, but it can also help the aspiring sommelier to understand if he is really motivated in his studies and if the subject he is so passionate about is really for him.

You can now buy my book dedicated to aspiring sommeliers, sommeliers and winelovers or scroll down the page to continue reading the article!

Chiara Bassi book sommelier illustrated manual

Sommelier: the illustrated manual

All my notes on wine and food in one book. Maximum portability to study where you want, when you want... and even with your smartphone unloaded! To all aspiring sommeliers... drink the wolf! πŸ˜„πŸΊπŸ·πŸ€

Chiara Bassi

AIS or FISAR at a glance

FISAR sommelier course

€1.600/Total 3 levels
  • Diploma recognised in Italy
  • Minimum duration 3 semesters, one semester for each level (one and a half years in total)
  • Level 1: 13 lessons + 25 wines + 4 beers + 3 spirits + 1 liqueur tasted + cellar visit; Level 2: 14 lessons + 42 wines; Level 3: 12 lessons + 36 wines + food and wine pairing tests (39 theoretical/practical lessons in total)
  • Compulsory attendance, maximum 4 absences per level (12 absences in total across the 3 levels). Any lessons missed may be made up within 12 months. In the event of longer absences, the level must be repeated.
  • You can choose to do only level 1 or stop at level 2, but it is only by completing all 3 levels that you become a sommelier.
  • 5 years to complete all 3 levels. After this period, you must start again from the last level you attended.
  • At the end of Level 1 and Level 2 there is a self-assessment test that is NOT an exam and issues a certificate of attendance and is NOT binding for enrolment in the next level.
  • Final examination consisting of a written test (multiple choice quiz on the entire programme of the 3 levels) + a practical test (wine tasting and serving test) + an oral examination (interview on the entire programme of the 3 levels).
  • To pass the examination, the minimum mark is 60/100. You can repeat the failed exam without a maximum of times, as long as it is within 12 months in any FISAR delegation and at the first useful session even after 12 months in your own FISAR delegation. If you do not take the exam at the end of the course, you must pay an additional €50 secretarial fee. If you do not give or pass the exam within the timeframe you have to retake the 3rd level.
  • Teaching material included in the course fee. The teaching material includes the textbooks, the goblet case with goblets, the notebook for noting down tastings, the professional corkscrew, the plastic-coated tasting placemat and 60 disposable frangins.
  • At least two years of FISAR membership must be added to the cost (70 €/year, 140 €/total). Discounts are available for those under 25 years of age.

N.B. The cost may vary slightly depending on the delegation.

Conclusion

Choosing between AIS or FISAR is the first step to becoming a sommelier and, to this end, it can be useful to talk to people who already work in the wine sector (from the professional sommelier to the wine shop owner, from the owner of the restaurant where you are a customer to the editorial staff of the newspaper with which you would like to collaborate) in order to get as precise a picture as possible of the career opportunities available to you. Working in the wine world does not only mean doing the job of the sommelier as normally understood, but there are plenty of parallel opportunities to be explored according to one's aptitudes and professional and educational background. Talking to key people in the wine niche you intend to enter also helps you understand what are the minimum requirements, the required skills and the pluses you need to succeed. Finally, to overcome thesommelier examination, it may help to buy this paper book.

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