What is a Sommelier?
Sommelier (pronounced /sɔməˈlje/ or suh-mal-‘yAy)
Also known as a wine waiter, sommeliers posses in-depth knowledge and have a great understanding of wine, of which their mastery can be put to good use in a variety of settings. Originally, sommeliers worked in hotels and restaurant wine cellars where they would consult with chefs to decide the best pairing of wines and dishes.
A specialist wine waiter / wine steward, is a trained and knowledgeable wine professional who specialises in all facets of beverage service.
Their principal work is in the area of wine procurement, storage, and wine cellar rotation. They are also responsible for the development of wine lists and are responsible overall for the delivery of wine service and training for the other restaurant staff. Working alongside the culinary team, they pair and suggest wines that will best complement each particular food menu item.
The role of a sommelier in fine dining today is strategically on a par with that of the executive chef or chef de cuisine. A professional sommelier also works on the floor of the restaurant and is in direct contact with restaurant patrons. The sommelier has a responsibility to work within the taste preference and budget parameters of the patron.
A sommelier’s role is much broader than working only with the wines, and must encompass all aspects of service, with an enhanced focus on wines, beers, spirits, cocktails, non-alcoholic beverages and coffee.
A sommelier has to have knowledge of how wine is supposed to taste, using his or her expertise and education about grape varieties or regions along with harvest times, climates, soils and the overall winemaking processes. This in-depth understanding helps the sommelier to answer a vast number of questions from patrons as well as industry partners.
His or her job may also require some travelling that will broaden and deepen their understanding of winemaking processes. While discussing wine with clients, it is always nice to be able to tell a few anecdotes about the vineyard or the winemaker.
To keep up to date with the wine trends, he or she is also expected to regularly attend formal wine tastings, trade fairs and shows.