What is a Sommelier?

Tasting with the Internatonal Sommelier Guild
You've heard me mention the word "Sommelier" numerous times, heck, that's the name of this wine blog, But, what is a Sommelier, and what should you expect from one?

It is thought that the word "Sommelier" (pronounced as Som-al-yay) comes from the old French word sommerier, meaning provisions officer. Today, the word has come to define a position on the field of hospitality, having to do with wine, wine service, along with wine inventory and purchase. Many fine restaurants employ a Sommelier to manage all aspects of their beverage service (including spirits, beer, coffee, water and tea).

When you go to a restaurant, how can you use the Sommelier? First, don't be afraid to ask for help in your wine selection. If you have a good Sommelier, his/her goal should be to enhance your dining experience.

When you look at the menu, what do you look at first? Price? Food? Wine list? If you are like me, I look at the wine list, then figure out what dinner item will go best with the wine I want to try, but I'm sure most of you look at the menu, then try to figure out which wine to go with it. This gets particularly tough when you have a group, and everyone is ordering something different. In these different cases, let your Sommelier know what your budget is. This embarrassing moment can be avoided, by simply pointing to the wine list, and telling your Sommelier that you'd like something "in this price range". Share your knowledge of wine. If you can describe the styles you like, that will be helpful, but if you really don't know, tell your Sommelier what wines you do like.

The job of the Sommelier is to know and understand different wine styles, wine regions, food pairing, and wine service. Think if a Sommelier as your private wine expert for the evening.

There a numerous organizations and associations that certify Sommeliers. Probably the best known are the Court of Master Sommeliers and the International Sommelier Guild (ISG). The certification is an extended (and ongoing) educational process, that includes multiple choice, and essay exams, as well as service demonstrations, and of course blind tastings and judged tasting notes. For a recap of my experience, check out one of my original blog articles by clicking here.

I am a certified Sommelier, earning my SGD (Sommelier Guild Diploma) with the ISG, and up to level III with the WSET (Wine & Spirits Education Trust). In my case, I do not work in a restaurant. I choose to conduct wine tastings, wine tours, and educate. I started this blog to answer your questions and educate. Many of you have taken me up on that offer, and have sent me private e-mails for food pairings, and wine suggestions. When you do, those questions give me ideas for my blogs. So, keep them coming.

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