From Bartender to Sommelier: The Story of a Blossoming Wine Expert

Erin Burke, of Westerly, RI, has recently become the newest member of a rapidly growing family. Burke, 35, from Westerly, RI, has just passed the Court of Sommeliers first level test to become a Master Sommelier. Burke currently works as a bartender at The Windjammer, a popular beach bar located in Westerly, RI. She recently traveled to St. Louis, MO to try her luck at taking the first level sommelier test, which requires, on average, years of preparation.

SMG Burke from Ryan Jacobson on Vimeo.

Burke began her bartending career nearly twelve years ago, and has since traveled the world working as a bartender and/or wine consultant. During her time in St. Louis, Burke took a twenty hour review class, accompanied by a intensive class about how to identify wines based on their sight, scent, and taste.

For the past 2 years Burke has been preparing to be one of the leading female sommeliers on the East Coast. Her preparation has included reading multiple wine books, subscribing to popular wine magazines, and attending wine tasting events across the tri-state area.

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Burke plans on taking the second level of the Court of Masters Sommelier Course in December and has an extensive preparation program lined up to help her prepare for the challenging level two test.

“The level 2 test requires test takers to sample multiple wines and predict their grape varietal, the counrty the grape was grown, and the vintage, simply by tasting the wine. The experts say that the best way to prepare is to practice, practice, practice. So that is what I am doing. I intend to be fully prepared for the tasting portion of the test by the time December rolls around” says Burke.

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In addition to taking the tasting portion of the sommelier test, Burke also has the added pressure of studying for the written portion of the test, which includes questions about the different regions, and types of wine from all over the world. The preparation for the examination is extensive, and Burke has recruited many of her friends to help her with the process.

“This process is nearly impossible to complete by yourself” says Burke. “Without the help of family and friends, the studying process for the Court of Master Sommeliers is incredibly difficult.”

Burke has been touring the Connecticut Wine Trail for a few months, and hopes to visit all of the vineyards by the end of the summer to help with her preparation.