What Does A Sommelier Do (including Their Typical Day at Work)

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Sommeliers

A Sommelier is a wine steward, responsible for helping restaurants and patrons select the right wine and food pairings. This job involves detailed knowledge of wine, beers, ales, and ciders.

Salary
$50400
Personality
Interest Match





Find a job you love and you will never work a day in your life.Confucius

A Sommelier serves wine to guests at fancy restaurants, wineries, and other fine-dining establishments. The job can trace its origins back to France in the middle ages when Sommeliers served the royalty. While modern Sommeliers may not serve kings and queens, they cater to the needs of upscale customers.

Sommeliers are essentially wine experts. However, working as a Sommelier comes with a long list of responsibilities beyond serving wine. Sommeliers also need to maintain and order the wine and know what wine works best with different foods.

What they do

A Sommelier is a wine steward, responsible for helping restaurants and patrons select the right wine and food pairings. This job involves detailed knowledge of wine, beers, ales, and ciders.

Create wine lists for restaurants

The Sommelier is often in charge of the wine selection. They examine the menu and find suitable wines to go with each course. The Sommelier may create the list alone or work with other restaurant staff to compile the list.

To provide customers with a range of options, the Sommelier often selects wines for multiple budgets. A diverse wine list may include low-cost wines and expensive vintages.

Maintain and order wine and other alcoholic beverages

As new menu items are added, the Sommelier may need to review the wine selection. They update the wine list as necessary to accommodate the needs of the restaurant.

Along with wine, many Sommeliers are required to be knowledgeable about other alcoholic beverages. Depending on the style of the restaurant, Sommeliers may need to know more about beer, ale, and cider.

Maintaining the alcoholic beverages includes the need for inventory management, proper storage, and cellar management. The Sommelier may be responsible for ensuring that the wine is stored in the right environment and carefully organized.

When vintages start to run low, the Sommelier is often the person responsible for ordering new wine. They may work with vendors and vineyards to procure new shipments to maintain a diverse wine list.

Help customers select the right wine for their meals

One of the main tasks of a Sommelier is to help customers choose wine. In some cases, the Sommelier’s recommendations are placed in the menu below each food item. However, Sommeliers may also need to interact with patrons and provide direct recommendations.

A Sommelier needs to articulate the features of the wine in an easily digestible way. Their job is to help customers understand the value of various food and wine pairings.

After helping customers select wine pairings for each course, the Sommelier retrieves the wine. When serving red wines that have been aged for many years, the Sommelier may need to decant the wine. This involves pouring a small amount of wine from the bottle to help oxygenate the wine.

Train servers and other employees on the basics of wine

Sommeliers are not the only ones that deal with customers in a restaurant. Waiters and waitresses may also need to provide recommendations to patrons. As the in-house wine expert, the Sommelier is often responsible for teaching other employees the basics of wine.

Test the maturity and taste of a wine vintage before serving

If a guest is served spoiled wine, the Sommelier receives the blame. To ensure that guests always receive quality wine, the Sommelier may test the maturity and taste of the wine before serving.

Many Sommeliers wear tastevins, which are shallow saucers worn around the neck. The Sommelier uses the tastevin to judge the quality of the wine by pouring a small amount onto the silver surface.


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What is the job like

Matt Woodburn-Simmonds
A fine dining restaurant

I get into work around 9.40 am, I start at 10, the first thing is espresso. There is usually a pile of wine deliveries waiting to be carried downstairs to the cellar, there is no lift, and I prefer to contemplate this task for a bit before starting.

After carting 100 bottles of wine to the cellar and putting them away, I check the wine fridges are all fully stocked up for lunch service. I’m supposed to do this the night before but sometimes I’m lazy and don’t. Once the fridges are stocked I’ll go and check on the waiting staff setting up the restaurant for lunch. If everything is under control I get my wine orders ready for those suppliers who deliver the next day, make sure I have enough of every wine by the glass to last the week, and that we’re well-stocked on champagne. I always keep 2 cases of house champagne buried in the cellar as an emergency stash, I’ve never run out, but it makes me feel better.

During lunch, wine service tends to be quite slow, with a few glasses here and there. Sometimes we get an “all-dayer” table who goes through a few bottles but it’s pretty rare. Generally, I’ll help the runners with simple tasks to keep everything moving smoothly when I don’t have much to do.

Once the lunch crowd has been packed away it’s time for another espresso, restocking everything that was used at lunch in the fridges and restaurant resetting for dinner service. Usually, I’ll get my break at around 4.30 pm, staff food is really good where I work, then it’s a quick 20-minute nap and back on the floor for 5.30 pm for the evening briefing and another espresso.

A full restaurant during dinner service keeps me a lot busier. A good mix of bottles, by the glass and wine pairings, keeps me moving at a “purposeful walk” pace. I have 17 tables to look after by myself and the kitchen will not wait for me to be ready before sending food.

I have a constant list of tasks that need done, organized by priority, in my head which endlessly updates as I get wine orders and the waiting staff informs me of tables needing their next matched wine. On a night like this, the nightmare scenario is actually the part of my job I love the most. A guest who is incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about wine and wants to dig into some of the more niche bottles on the list with full explanations and backstories. I don’t have time for this and I manage to convince him the second one he mentions is ideal for him, saving me maybe 5 crucial minutes.

As dinner service winds down I make a note of every bottle and glass sold so I can restock everything for the morning. I talk to the Chef about any notable bottles that were sold, I have a taste of a ’96 Burgundy for her from a nice gentleman who told me to have a taste.

Generally, I’ll finish up around 1 am, grab my staff sandwich, and head home. Tomorrow is another fully booked day and I need to be back in at 9.30 am to make sure everything is ready.

I (along with my wife, Katie) run the website Home Coffee Expert where we share information on all things coffee. My day job is as a Sommelier in a fine dining restaurant, wine is my first love and coffee is a close second.


Pros

You get to taste a wide variety of great wines

Sommeliers need a deep love and appreciation for wines, as they spend a lot of time testing different vintages. You get to try wines that you may otherwise never have the chance to taste.

Work in fancy restaurants with classy atmospheres

Sommeliers are often employed at the finest restaurants in the region. You get to spend most of your time in a beautiful dining establishment while serving the upper crust of society.

Cons

You will be tasting a lot of bad wines too

Tasting wines is an essential duty for Sommeliers. In your pursuit of finding the best wines, you are likely to encounter many bad wines.

Spending most of your day on your feet

Sommeliers spend most of their time on their feet. You do not have a lot of time to sit and relax. When not assisting patrons, you may need to organize the wine cellar or perform any number of other duties.

Where they work

Restaurants and Fine-Dining Establishments
Hotels, Resorts, and Casinos
Wineries
Cigar Bars and Upscale Lounges


Sommeliers often work at restaurants, wineries, and various fine-dining establishments with wine cellars. Sommeliers are also employed in the hospitality industry, working for hotels, resorts, and casinos.

Most places of employment for Sommeliers have formal settings, requiring employees to dress in formal attire and maintain a certain level of etiquette. Sommeliers may spend time working on the restaurant floor, kitchen, wine cellar, and office. Their time is divided between managing the wine cellar and assisting patrons.

How to become one

Step 1: Increase Your Knowledge of Wine

Sommeliers require knowledge of wines from various regions around the world. You should know how wine is produced, where it comes from, and how the growing and production process influences the taste of the wine. To obtain this knowledge, you can take wine-tasting classes or enroll in college courses on wine production.

Step 2: Gain Work Experience in the Hospitality Industry

One of the main requirements for becoming a Sommelier is past work experience. Entry-level positions still require knowledge of how restaurants and kitchens operate. Working as a server, cook, or even a dishwasher can help you gain industry experience.

Step 3: Obtain a Sommelier Certification

Some Colleges and Universities offer Sommelier certification programs. These certifications are not required but can vastly improve your employability in this field. You should start with the Level One Certification for Sommeliers, which covers the basics of working as a Sommelier.

Step 4: Start Looking for Entry-Level Sommelier Positions

Look for restaurants and businesses in the hospitality sector that require Sommeliers. In many cases, you may start by working under another Sommelier, helping to provide on-the-job training.

Should you become one

Best personality for this career
The Helper

People with this personality type likes to work with people and in teams. They prefer work that allows them to build relationships with others.

You can read more about these career personality types here.

Sommeliers need an outgoing, friendly personality, due to their frequent interaction with patrons at the restaurants or wineries where they work. The ability to remember details is also essential, as Sommeliers need to memorize the features of a wide range of wines and alcoholic beverages.

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