Level 2: Italian Wine Professional™ (IWP)

The Italian Wine Professional™ is a university-level certification program for those who want to understand the broad spectrum of Italian wines, whether for their jobs or their own enjoyment. It is a tightly curated curriculum that focuses on mastering the large array of Italian wines and grape varieties that are seen on export markets, leaving the obscure and rare wines for later study as needed. The goal is to certify individuals who are comfortable in their knowledge of all the classic, commercially significant, and up-and-coming Italian wines with a presence outside Italy.

The IWP course is designed to take eight weeks of study online, followed by an online exam. Those who successfully pass the exam are certified by Italian Wine Central as Italian Wine Professionals (IWPs). The course was developed by the education team at Italian Wine Central and is administered by the Napa Valley Wine Academy. It is open to members of the trade and interested consumers.

To register for the Italian Wine Professional course, click here.


Below are some frequently asked questions about the Level 2 IWP course.


Who should take the Italian Wine Professional course?

The Italian Wine Professional course is recommended for anyone who wants to strengthen his or her knowledge base on the subject of Italian wine. The program is designed to bring Italian wines into focus and provide the confidence necessary to discuss, sell, buy, and enjoy Italian wine at a professional level. Ideal candidates include:

  • Those who have experience with wine but have not dealt much with Italian wine
  • Those who are familiar with some of the more famous categories of Italian wine but want to broaden their scope to less familiar territory
  • Those who work in retail, restaurant, import, and distribution roles selling, evaluating, or competing against Italian wines
  • Wine writers, educators, and avid connoisseurs who wish to increase their knowledge of Italian wine
  • Anyone who has a passion for Italian wine but wants help in understanding Italian wine labels, expanding their horizons in choosing wines on a wine list, or appreciating the differences between the myriad Italian wine styles

The course is particularly recommended for wine professionals who have Italian wine sales as one of their job requirements and who do not currently feel comfortable with their Italian wine knowledge. The IWP is also appropriate for wine consumers who like Italian wine but have little experience with it. In addition, the IWP makes a perfect first step to get on solid ground regarding Italian wine before tackling high-level general credentials (e.g., Advanced Sommelier, WSET Diploma, etc.).

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What are the prerequisites?

There are no specific prerequisites for taking the Italian Wine Professional, but students with little prior knowledge of Italian wines may struggle to assimilate all the new information presented in the course. Though the Level 1 course is not required before taking the IWP, it is recommended for beginners. IWP students should be familiar with common wine terms and basic principles of viticulture and winemaking from previous experience or a general wine course.

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What’s covered in the course?

The Italian Wine Professional is a challenging but enjoyable course that introduces students to the wines and grape varieties that make up the vast majority of Italian exports, along with some that are still relatively unknown but show great promise. The course is designed to be practical and market relevant, so Italian Wine Central has worked with sommeliers and other Italian wine experts to select the wines and grape varieties that Italian wine professionals should know from memory, and the course focuses on those to ensure students’ time is well spent.

The IWP course consists of eight units organized by wine style—a format that mirrors the way people usually think when selecting wines to buy or drink. The eight units cover the following themes:

  1. Introduction to Italy and Italian Wines
  2. Northern Italian Reds
  3. Central Italian Reds
  4. Southern Italian Reds
  5. White Wines of the Peninsula and Islands
  6. White Wines of Northern Italy
  7. Sparkling Wines, Dessert Wines, & Spirits
  8. Luxury Wines

Each unit includes images, maps, pronunciation practice, and interactive exercises to help students get acquainted with Italian wines. Throughout, students are exposed to:

  • Grape variety profiles
  • Italy’s major wine styles
  • Geography through the use of original color maps
  • Italian cuisine and its relationship with Italian wines
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When is the course taught and how long does it take?

The primary format of the Italian Wine Professional is entirely online through a collaboration of the Napa Valley Wine Academy—named WSET Wine Educator of the Year in 2017—and Italian Wine Central. The course is self-study in nature, so it can be done on your own schedule. However, students are grouped together in cohorts that are encouraged to progress through the course at more or less the same pace—one unit per week. In this way, students can share their insights, discuss Italian wines they have tasted, and provide some support to each other. New cohorts start monthly.

While experienced students can move through the course faster if they wish, we recommend that most students stay on a one-unit-per-week pace and spend time reviewing the material and completing the exercises. This pace provides the best retention of knowledge. At one unit per week, the course takes 8 weeks to complete, after which you have some time to review and take a practice exam, and then you take your online exam. There is also an optional short presentation that students can submit at this point, normally done as a video. While the presentation is optional, it can earn bonus points and brings the exam’s passing score down.

The Italian Wine Professional is also offered with live instruction by partner schools. The format varies, from 9-week-long programs that present all material in class to 2-day add-ons to the online course that focus on review and tasting. Scheduled IWP courses at provider schools are listed here.

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Is there a book with the course?

Yes, the IWP online course and school-based courses include a copy of the accompanying book Into Italian Wine in the course tuition. The book contains most of the online course content, so it is ideal for review during and after the course. It also contains additional material that will be a handy reference on the job.

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What else is included in the course?

The Italian Wine Professional course also includes live and recorded webinars that students can watch to learn more about the course itself or specific topics within the course. The online course has a forum where students answer questions, support each other in their studies, and post their own discoveries and experiences. The forum is monitored by an instructor who can respond to questions or correct inaccurate information that the cohort members themselves cannot answer. Quizzes and a practice IWP exam are included as well.

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Is there any wine tasting involved?

Tasting Italian wines during the course is strongly encouraged, but not required. As an online course, students will normally need to source the wines themselves, either from work if employed in the wine trade or from a good wine retailer. A list of suggested wine categories to acquire is included in the course materials. Those in the U.S. without access to a good selection of Italian wines can purchase sets of wines from Wine.com that are specifically chosen to accompany the course, with a 10% discount and free shipping. Students write up their tasting notes and share them with others in their cohort through the course forum, allowing others to learn about wines that they have not had the opportunity to taste. However, there is no tasting component to the final exam.

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What is the student presentation element of the course, and do I have to do one?

The IWP course includes an optional student presentation project. The projects provide some experience in the wine education aspect of an Italian wine professional’s job. They are intended to offer experiential learning in the skills of research, writing, and speaking. In addition, they enrich the course with new insights and let students have some fun and show off their talents and interests. The presentations, on a relevant wine topic, are practical exercises that highlight the fact that wine professionals are also wine educators from time to time.

The standard project is a 5- to 7-minute video-recorded presentation about a wine style, wine region, or other topic. Beginner-level students are encouraged to choose a topic that will help them in their current or desired wine-industry job; more advanced students are encouraged to choose a topic outside their comfort zone. The projects are graded and can receive up to three points, which are added to the score on the exam toward reaching a passing score (but cannot be used to raise a score into the honors level). In addition, the passing score for students who submit a presentation is reduced by five points. Thus, while not mandatory, doing a presentation can bring the passing score closer by as much as eight points. Presentations must be submitted before sitting the exam.

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What is the final exam like?

The Italian Wine Professional examination is optional, but passing the exam is a requirement for achieving the IWP credential. A practice exam is available after the last lesson to help prepare for the actual exam. The actual certification exam is taken online by appointment with a proctoring service, any day, any time. The cost of the exam is included in the course tuition.

The IWP exam is an online 100-point test consisting of a mix of question formats such as multiple choice, matching, fill-in-the-blank, and short answer. Some questions involve maps, wine labels, images, and wine lists. There are no essays and there is no tasting component. Many questions require the student to combine knowledge described in two or more learning objectives. The exam is challenging, with questions designed to test understanding rather than rote memorization, but the material is drawn entirely from topics outlined in the published learning objectives. Students have 60 minutes to complete the test.

Exams are graded by Italian Wine Central. A passing score on the test is 85 points for those who do not submit a presentation project. If a presentation is submitted, the passing score is reduced to 80 points, and any bonus points awarded for the project are added to the exam score. Examinees who pass the exam are designated Italian Wine Professionals. Students achieving a score of 90, not including bonus points, are recognized with honors.

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What do students receive if they pass the course?

In addition to the knowledge gained in the course and the tangible job benefit of being certified as an Italian Wine Professional, IWPs also receive the following:

  • Use of IWP mark and logo. Upon notification that they have passed the exam, course graduates may refer to themselves Italian Wine Professionals or IWPs and can use the IWP logo on professional business cards.
  • Certificates. Certificates are issued as evidence of having achieved the credential.
  • IWP directory listing. Names of successful IWPs are listed in directory of active IWPs on the Italian Wine Central website.
  • Preferred rates on online access. IWPs are eligible for discounts on future online webinars and other programs.
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How does this course fit in with other wine courses?

The Italian Wine Professional is designed to help members of the wine trade become confident and capable in dealing with Italian wine, but it can also provide targeted instruction in what many describe as the most difficult area of wine study for anyone pursuing advanced general wine credentials. In terms of the Court of Master Sommeliers (CMS) program, the IWP course is probably best taken between the certified and advanced sommelier levels; for the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) program, between Level III and the Diploma; and for the Society of Wine Educators (SWE) program, between the CSW and CWE.

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How much does the Level 2 course cost?

The online Italian Wine Professional course, book, and exam cost $795, with trade and volume discounts. Corporate rates for large or small businesses are also available. Prices for live-instruction courses vary, but are higher due to the wine tasting and personalized instruction that are included.

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To register for the Italian Wine Professional course, click here.