Ever go to a nice restaurant and have your wine served by someone who seems to really enjoy doing so? Chances are, this person was a sommelier. Sommeliers are knowledgeable wine professionals who know every facet of proper wine service, etiquette, and management.
A sommelier is much more than someone who serves wine. They are responsible for the entire wine cellar, which can be found at most fine dining establishments. A sommelier rotates the cellar, procures the wine lists, suggests suitable pairings for particular meals, and they are responsible for the proper training and management of other wine servers in the restaurant. These professionals are more knowledgeable in the wine industry than any one else, and this knowledge did not come by unintentionally.
Not only is wine knowledge a must, but so is personality. Ensuring the ease and comfort of each patron at a restaurant should also be the goal of an exceptional sommelier. Initiating light conversation while welcoming to the establishment helps to create a warm feeling, one that customers will want to return to, as well as patronize. Customers that trust their sommelier are much more likely to trust his recommendations.
Why become a sommelier? In a restaurant industry where jobs and applicants are abundant, it is more then necessary to stand out. Fine dining restaurants have serious reputations to uphold, and prefer to hired candidates that are as concerned about the restaurant as the proprietor. A certified Sommelier is able to afford a company with the expertise in wine that they need. A sommelier can also provide training to other servers in the area of wine, which will raise the standards of the restaurant entirely.
Restaurant sales are of the utmost importance, and an educated sommelier can boost sales through their knowledge of what bottles to sell to which customers. It is much easier for a professional wine steward to sell an expensive pinot noir to a patron than it is for your average wait staff. Increasing profitability and customer response is most beneficially way to ingratiate yourself into a permanent position in the restaurant industry.
The drawbacks to the sommelier position include confusing and angering customers. This situation can arise when a patron asks the sommelier something about wine that he cannot answer. Another situation can come about when the information granted by the sommelier is too much for the customer, which confuses them or makes them feel ignorant. A sommelier should never impose knowledge into a patron without their full consent, especially when the patron is confident that they are correct. This can be hard for an educated professional such as a sommelier to ignore, but it is imperative in order to retain proper customer relations. It is always a good idea to wear the Court Badge provided upon graduation from the Court of Master Sommeliers. This will ensure other staff members and customers alike that you are proficient in your knowledge and should be respected. A sommelier must also enjoy working at night, as positions in this field are just not available during the day. Most fine dining occurs after 5pm.
If a person is interested in becoming a sommelier, there is only one place to go for this training in North America, and that is the International Sommelier Guild. This Board of Education licensed provider has centers for learning in twenty American states, as well as in six Canadian provinces. This is the only educational body that can issue the certificates of The Court of Master Sommeliers, and the coveted Master of Sommeliers. These are the only two licensures available from the International Sommelier Guild, with only a small percentage of the students ever attaining the title of Master.
Obtaining work as a sommelier will depend on experience and qualifications. There are only 112 Master Sommeliers in the world, with salaries that are likely to exceed the high six figures. In order to obtain this prestigious title, an advanced exam is performed in three parts. Since the Bureau of Labor does not report statistics on jobs that are categorized under the title of Sommelier, it is hard to address the exact number of opportunities or unemployment levels.
For most Sommeliers, the job is fun and rewarding, expanding from data collection and entry to marketing and sales. Sommeliers need to be able to multi-task as well as enjoy working with the public.