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.
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SommeliersA 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.
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.
What is it like working as one
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.
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
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
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.