Each of us has lived at least one life, others have lived a multiplicity of lives. Some of us are able to choose the right path when we are teenagers or young adults, others do not even imagine that a different path is actually possible. Some of us are satisfied with our lives, others are, but at the same time feel that something is missing. Still others realise they have got it all wrong and are undecided whether to resign themselves to what they have built up to that point or to dare and pursue a dream. Some do not even know what to dream and are lost in the darkness of the night, like sailors who know no sea wander without a lighthouse to guide them to the longed-for land. The years pass, inexorable, and age seems to get out of hand and become a limitation even for following that desired sommelier course with no ambitions for change. Doubts upon doubts crowd like ants on the one crumb of bread that has fallen. They increase second by second. What to do?

Sommelier course: is it too late for me?

One day my father, when he had recently turned 60 and was still in splendid health with his fairly athletic physique with no vices except a sweet treat (or two) after dinner, came to me with a dressmaker's tape measure. He told me that it perfectly represented a person's life and pointed to 60, where he was. Then he pointed to 31, where I was standing. He told me that if all went well we would both reach the end of the metre, but we were not allowed to know our expiry date and he, with absolute certainty, had lived practically 2/3 of his life expectancy, while I had lived 1/3. He actually died just 2 years later, from a sudden tumour. I will never forget when he was trying to help me realise my dreams literally while he was having chemo with an iPad in his hand.

Do you know why I tell you this as the premise of this article? Because very few have been as lucky as me to have a father who kept telling me 'if you can dream it, you can do it, you lack nothing to do it'. Even when everything was going wrong and I didn't believe it myself. And even those who were, often forget it, gripped by the difficulties of life that they may have had to overcome. This forgetfulness is the nourishment of those doubts I mentioned earlier, those that create fears, monsters that are difficult to eradicate and immobilise us in a life that does not belong to us.

Do you feel like studying?

There are two types of people in the world: those who do not feel like doing anything and those who feel like doing a lot. There is no middle ground. And if you are reading this article it is because you found this newspaper while looking for information about the sommelier course or you subscribed to the newsletter or found a link on one of my social networks: either way this puts you in the second category of people, those who want to do a lot. You may be stuck, unsure or doubtful, you may have no idea which way to go... but you certainly want to do. And that, trust me, is already a lot.

The first, fundamental requirement for enrolling in a sommelier course is to be willing to go to class in the evening, perhaps after a busy day at work. Maybe with courses held in another city than the one where you live. And study a little bit everywhere, compatible with your lifestyle. Many times you will have to give up your time off or your outings to study. Are you willing to do that?

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Sommelier course: why age is not an issue

Let's face it: it is one thing when you are fresh out of high school or university and are used to studying on a daily basis. Or simply being studious by nature and studying out of habit even without pursuing a degree. Starting to study again, if you are not used to it, can be a real challenge. However, our brains are wonderful and studying helps us preserve them even as we get older, so don't beat yourself up about it. The difficulties will diminish day by day regardless of your age, in fact you will keep yourself younger!

Often, however, the doubts are not so much related to study fatigue and one wonders whether it makes sense to begin this path, which is in any case quite long and demanding, at 40 years of age or at 50 or more. The answer is simpler than it appears and is yes, it makes sense! Regardless of whether you want to do the sommelier course because you want to change your life or simply to give your passion for wine a concrete basis, there is no age limit to begin and pursue it successfully. The sommelier course consists of 3 levels and in order to take your time to do things well and calmly you can follow one level per year: this way it will take you 3 years, but if you get used to studying a little at a time you will be able to consolidate your knowledge and not go crazy about fitting your life in with your studies. This choice is ideal especially if you are studying without any ambitions to change jobs.

Do you want to change jobs and wonder if a sommelier course makes sense at your age?

The sommelier course always makes sense, but what you need to do is to choose a job that is aligned to your current skills that can be an advantage at entry where age is not a limitation at all. For example, it is quite unlikely that at 50 or older you will start a career as a sommelier in a restaurant - due to the often hectic gavetta, schedule and rhythm - but it can be a perfect age to work in a wine shop or even open your own wine shop! If you like the online world, have some money to invest and have management skills, you can think about opening a wine e-commerce. In this case, I recommend opening a very vertical one to carve out your niche market and to delve well into that territory. Wines in the world are 'infinite' and you cannot be an expert in everything: you are much more likely to succeed by specialising in a denomination that you know perfectly well, especially if it is a denomination that has a certain attraction in the public eye, but there is no particular competition yet. For example, you could open an online Sauternes or Port wine shop if you are into meditation wines. To bypass the difficulties of warehousing, you could work in drop shipping, i.e. 'only' selling the wine and leaving the logistical burden to the wineries you put in your portfolio... but there are many solutions there. What I want to show you, however, is that it can be done and in this case age can be an added value.

The job outlets of the sommelier course, however, are many and the only limit is your imagination: you can apply the skills acquired during this course of study to your current profession in a way that makes it more fulfilling. For example, you could be a graphic designer and not be particularly satisfied with your current job, although you enjoy the profession itself. What if you became a graphic designer specialising in the design of wine labels? In this case, the sommelier course is not only very useful, it also limits the errors that can be created in terms of content and font size and this saves money on any corrective reprints. Also, wineries like to talk to someone who understands what they are dealing with and it is easier to get chosen as a supplier.

Or you can be an architect and the sommelier course could help you specialise in designing beautiful wine cellars like those found in this column on oenological architecture. Or you could be a seamstress and specialise in designing uniforms that are beautiful and practical, or you could use innovative fabrics made from wine processing waste. I am absolutely certain that so many jobs can be declined to wine and indeed your previous skills can be a great help in making the sommelier course.

Sommelier course job opportunities

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! 😄🐺🍷🍀

Chiara Bassi

Sommelier course: why you should not be afraid to take this step

Let's be clear: becoming a sommelier is not the same as becoming a heart surgeon and the sommelier course is not the faculty of medicine with its specialisations. It is certainly a challenging course because there are so many things to study, there are so many appellations and grape varieties, and the wines to taste tend to be endless. However, you are not going for open-heart surgery, so the difficulties you will encounter during your course are rationalisable and therefore surmountable.

Not even the final exam should scare you: it is 'only' an exam. At the most, if you fail you give it back, so what? What's the problem? You don't risk a patient dying under the knife and you don't risk dying because you're jumping out of a plane and your parachute got stuck. We are in a society where failures must be hidden, yet we all experience small or big failures every day and our attitude to accept them, face them and start again is what makes us successful people. If we stand still for fear of failure, not only will we accomplish very little in our lives, but with great difficulty we will do something that really fulfils us. 

There is nothing wrong with trying. There is nothing wrong with trying and failing. You won't succeed at the first shot, you will succeed at the second or the third. Persevere and you will surely succeed.

Where are you today? Where do you want to be tomorrow?

We are all actors in a society that demands that we always be perfect, that inculcates in us from an early age the fear of diversity, imperfection and failure. It is now 2023, but even today men still have enormous social pressures on their salary, while women have enormous social pressures on their physical appearance. We spend our entire lives chasing ideals that are not our own so that we can feel part of the social group in which we live or to which we aspire. In the meantime the years pass and we advance notch by notch in the metre of life.

Remember: one's achievements in life are not a matter of luck. To imply this is to believe that we are in the hands of luck. Luck exists, but it is only that which determined our starting conditions, our advantage or disadvantage before we even started our game. And if you are reading this article, it most likely means that you were born in the right part of the world and have more than most people have. There are still wars, extreme poverty in places where there is no water or electricity and infant mortality. Never forget that.

Wherever you are today, however much or little you have built, you are primarily responsible for it. Think about it: your every action is cause and effect of what you are and what you will be. This is not only extraordinary, but also a great consolation because it means that you can still change everything, maybe even starting with taking the sommelier course.

In a metaphor, your life is a car that you drive and you always decide its route. The car you drive - type, model, options... - and the road - motorway, back road, mule track... - can always change. At any given moment there is always another choice you can make. Unless you consider where you are now the most satisfying of all possible places... don't stop!

Sommelier course

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