The Rise of the Sommelier: How Sommeliers are Becoming the New Celebrities
Are you a wine lover looking to enhance your dining experience? Then you’ll be thrilled to know that sommeliers are the ultimate wine experts you can rely on. While you may think you know what a sommelier does, the truth is that their role goes beyond what meets the eye.
What is the meaning of sommeliers?
Sommeliers are not only a waiter in charge of wines and their service! From selecting the perfect wine to pair with your meal to creating wine lists and training staff, sommeliers have many responsibilities. They work hand in hand with chefs to ensure that the wine cellar complements the current menu, and they’re always prepared to offer personalised wine recommendations based on your food choices.
And the best part? A more casual and approachable style has replaced the once-formal approach to sommelier service. This change has led to a new appreciation for the art of food and wine pairing. Sommeliers are now rockstars in their own right, introducing customers to unique and exciting grape varieties from organic wineries worldwide.
Sure, you know who sommeliers are and what they generally do, but there’s more to this job description than you would think. Generally speaking, a sommelier is a person responsible for all aspects of wine in a bar or restaurant. Depending on the type of premises where one works (fine dining restaurant, more casual restaurant, wine bar), sommelier duties vary.
Is a sommelier a waiter?
Yes and no. While a sommelier may work in a restaurant or bar setting and interact with customers, they are not the same as a waiter or server. While a waiter’s main responsibility is to take customers’ orders, serve their meals, and make sure they have an enjoyable dining experience, a sommelier’s role is to specialise in all aspects of wine.
A sommelier may be responsible for creating a wine list and staff education and training. Furthermore, a sommelier works with a chef to ensure that the wine cellar corresponds to the current menu. He must also be fully prepared to give wine recommendations to guests, according to their chosen food.
This responsibility certainly requires a lot of experience in food and wine pairing techniques and an excellent understanding of the restaurant’s menu and wine list. Finally, a waiter experience is still considered essential because a sommelier is in direct contact with people and, therefore, must be able to recognise a subtle hint regarding guests’ budget limit and recommend wines accordingly.
What does sommelier mean literally?
The word “sommelier” has its roots in the Old Provençal language of southern France, where it originally referred to a person who transported goods, particularly pack animals like mules and donkeys. Over time, the term evolved to refer to a wine steward or wine taster in charge of the wine cellar in a noble or royal household.
The literal meaning of “sommelier” is “pack animal driver” or “beasts of burden driver”, but today, it has come to refer specifically to a trained and knowledgeable wine professional who works in the hospitality industry.
Is sommelier a skill?
Yes, being a sommelier is a skill that requires extensive training, knowledge, and experience. A sommelier must deeply understand wine regions, grape varieties, winemaking techniques, and food and wine pairing. They must also have strong communication skills to effectively share their knowledge with customers and make personalised recommendations based on individual preferences.
Chefs working in high-end restaurants are well aware that sommeliers are the ones who can take a dining experience to a whole new level. Therefore, perfect food-wine pairing is considered a must in this type of restaurant.
So, while being a sommelier requires a combination of skills and knowledge, it is certainly a learnable and developable skill that can be honed through dedication and practice.
What is a wine expert called?
Although the first thing that comes to mind when talking about wine experts is a sommelier, wine experts can have many other forms not necessarily involving all the skills required for a sommelier.
For example, many wine connoisseurs could possess a deep appreciation and knowledge of wine, often gained through personal interest and experience. They could even have some official training in all aspects of wine, including wine regions, grape varieties, winemaking techniques, and food and wine pairing.
For example, someone with WSET Level 4 Award could be genuinely knowledgeable about wine, much more than an average sommelier, but they are not trained to work in the hospitality industry.
Therefore, many experts in wines are not necessarily sommeliers. Instead, they could work in education, the wine trade, as a sales representative, or any other role in the wine industry.
Are Sommeliers friendly?
Instead of dreading to talk to a sommelier, you should, in fact, be excited about it. Why? Because many of them have dropped their guard and are now practicing a more informal approach to their guests. There are a couple of reasons for that.
With the rise of bistronomy, fine dining is taken from uptight restaurants to more informal bistros where casual approach to gastronomy is more appropriate.
This resulted in people paying more attention to food and wine pairing. This doesn’t mean sommeliers working in this type of restaurants are less informed. Au contraire, some enjoy a rock-star status since they are revealing a whole new world to their customers. There are places where you go to eat because of their sommelier.
So, the next time you dine out, don’t hesitate to seek out a sommelier. They’re not just middle-aged men in black ties recommending expensive French wines anymore. Instead, they’re young, engaging, and passionate individuals who can take your dining experience to a whole new level. And who knows, they may just introduce you to your new favourite wine from a secluded winery in Croatia!