The Certified Wine Educator (CWE) Exam is a unique certification that not only tests a candidate’s wine knowledge, but also validates his or her tasting acumen and teaching ability.
This certification is widely recognized and highly regarded by the international wine industry.
This intense undertaking comprises a theory exam, two blind tasting exams and a presentation skills demonstration, along with requiring candidates to provide evidence of Responsible Beverage Alcohol Service certification. Detailed information on each component of the CWE Exam is included below.
All candidates pursuing the CWE certification must already possess the Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) certification. There are no exceptions to this rule regardless of a candidate’s background or credentials. All segments of the CWE, including the presentation skills demonstration, must be passed within a three year time frame.
While the CWE is basically considered to be a self-study program, SWE does host a CWE Aspirant Facebook group. Active members of SWE who already possess a CSW certification are welcome to request an invitation to the CWE Facebook group by emailing our Director of Education, Jane A. Nickles.
The CWE Exam may be approached as a self-study educational program, and many candidates are successful in doing so. However, the Society has put together a set of educational resources to assist candidates in preparing for this challenging exam. These include The 140-page CWE Candidate Manual, available on Amazon, which is suggested for use at the beginning and throughout the exam preparation process. In addition, an annual Recommended Reading List is published. Please click here for the 2022 Recommended Reading list. Click here for the 2023 Recommended Reading list. An online study site, based on the books included in the Recommended Reading Lists and designed to assist with the theory portions of the exam, is also available, click here for the CWE Study Site.
Digital Wine Map Exercises—over 800 graphic wine map flashcards along with more than 20 “drag-and-drop” exercises—all based on the wine maps published in the Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) Study Guide. Click here to purchase.
The seated portion of the CWE exam contains two main parts: theory (multiple choice exam plus essay exam) and tasting (varietal/appellation ID and faults identification). Candidates may purchase and attempt these parts of the exam separately, or purchase both and attempt them at the same exam sitting. The theory portion of the CWE exam may be taken via at-home, online proctoring. Please contact the SWE home office for more information on online proctoring. All parts of the CWE exam, including the theory and tasting portions of the CWE exam will continue to be offered at specific locations and times as noted on the SWE website, Exams and Seminars.
Once candidates purchase the CWE Exam from the Catalog, they need to register for the exam of their choice on the exam calendar. Exam registrations are good for one full year from the date of purchase.
Candidates who successfully pass all components of the CWE Exam are entitled to use the CWE post-nominal as part of their professional signature. They will also receive a certificate (suitable for framing) and a CWE lapel pin.
The theory portion of the exam consists of 85 multiple-choice questions and one essay that tests the candidate’s ability to format information coherently and concisely to a target audience. One hour is allotted for the multiple-choice section; with an additional one hour provided for the essay. A combined score of 76% or better is required to pass this segment, with a minimum of 65 required on the multiple-choice and 11 on the essay. For a copy of the current essay rubric, click here. Click here for a selection of practice essay questions.
Varietal/Appellation Wine Identification
This exercise requires matching a set of eight typical varietal wines and/or historic blends with a supplied list of ten possibilities. Successful candidates must identify at least six out of 8 correctly. Forty-five minutes is allotted for this blind identification exercise. In addition, candidates must also complete a logical tasting note for one wine (as identified by the exam proctor) utilizing the Society’s Tasting Rationale. Click here for our recommended list of wines to study. Candidates must pass the Tasting Rationale with a 22 out of 30. In addition to our scheduled, in-person exams, virtual tasting exams for the varietal/appellation wine identification portion of the CWE—via Zoom or a similar web conferencing platform—are available to candidates who have passed the theory portions of the CWE Exam. Please contact our Director of Education, Jane A. Nickles, for more information on scheduling a virtual tasting exam.
Faults and Imbalances Wine Identification
Candidates must identify heightened levels of standard wine components as well as chemically induced imbalances. The examinee is given thirty minutes to identify oxidation and increased levels of sugar, acid, tannin, acescence, alcohol and sulfur in addition to correctly recognizing the unadulterated “control”. Successful candidates must identify at least six correctly. The chemical kit used for the exam is available for purchase for practice through our online store. For a copy of the instructions, click here. In addition to our scheduled, in-person exams, virtual tasting exams for the faults and imbalances identification portion of the CWE—via Zoom or a similar web conferencing platform—are available to candidates who have passed the theory portions of the CWE Exam. Please contact our Director of Education, Jane A. Nickles, for more information on scheduling a virtual faults exam.
Presentation Skills Demonstration
Candidates must successfully demonstrate their ability to present on a wine topic, selected from the approved list of themes, in front of a live audience. Candidates must pass all written and tasting portions of the exam prior to giving this presentation. The presentation may be scheduled in conjunction with the Society’s annual conference or, alternately, the candidate may choose to submit a video recording of his or her presentation. For more information on the Presentation Skills Demonstration Requirement, click here. For the current list of approved presentation themes, click here. For a copy of the current presentation skills rubric, click here. Candidates must score a 65 out of 100 points to successfully pass the Presentation component. For the required format of the Presentation Skills Demonstration Outline, and a sample outline, click here.
Responsible Beverage Alcohol Service Certification
Candidates must submit evidence of current certification with either their state’s responsible beverage alcohol service program, the National Restaurant Association’s Educational Foundation’s ServSafe Alcohol® or TiPS® (Training for Intervention ProcedureS).
Exams are offered throughout the year in numerous locations in both the United States and abroad. Please check the Exam & Seminars calendar for a current list of exam dates and locations.
The Society of Wine Educators owns the copyright in all exam materials and supplements referenced herein. Any redistribution or reproduction of part of all of the content is prohibited except as permitted by copyright law. You may not, except with the express permission of the Society of Wine Educators, distribute or commercially exploit the content. Nor may you transmit it or store it in any other website or other form of electronic retrieval system.