What is a Sommelier?

If you have ever tried any sort of wine before, you can probably thank a Sommelier.

A Sommelier (pronounced suh-muhl-yei) is essentially a wine expert. These professionals are trained for an extended period of time in wine.

So, what does this actually involve? A few things. First, Sommeliers will be highly knowledgeable in all sorts of wine. This also includes all aspects of wine, including what is in it, how it is made, how it tastes, and what makes a certain wine different from other wines. They will know everything about a certain wine, from where it is made to the types of grapes in it to information about the company. Of course, no person can be expected to be a literal encyclopedia, so most Sommeliers have their knowledge of wine confined to a restaurant’s particular offerings. However, just like any other profession, Sommeliers will be expected to keep up with the latest trends within the food and wine industry. If they work for a specific restaurant or hotel, they will be expected to know what sorts of wine will fit well with the restaurant’s menu. 

Additionally, they will know information about food pairings. This means that they will be able to tell you what kind of food a particular wine will go with. This goes both ways: A good Sommelier will be able to look at a food item and recommend a good wine, or look at a bottle of wine and recommend a complimentary piece of food to eat.

As you would imagine, becoming a Sommelier is just like becoming a professional in any other job, as it requires extensive training, testing, and certification. In order to become a Sommelier, an individual must engage in training that may potentially take years. Certification is determined by the Court of Master Sommeliers, who has four levels of Sommelier: Introductory, Certified, Advanced, and Master. The Master rank is extremely prestigious and highly limited: Only 269 people have become Master Sommeliers since its creation in 1969. 

Testing for each of these ranks vary, but typically involve some sort of written test, a live demonstration, and blind testing.

As you would imagine, a Sommelier is not easy to find. It is very expensive to become a Sommelier, and Sommeliers are usually found in higher-end restaurants, hotels, resorts, or cruise ships. A Sommelier is expected to keep up with all the latest trends within the wine industry and ensure that they are helping all customers fully enjoy their eating and drinking experience. As such, they are usually only found in more expensive establishments. 

Many Sommeliers start in the restaurant industry, where they have a chance to explore their passion and determine if this is truly a job that they want. Of course, becoming a Sommelier also involves extensive testing of wine, where Sommeliers will learn to tell the difference between various types of wine.

People who are serious about becoming a Sommelier will have to taste extensive amounts of wine, but not just drink it – you need to get good at tasting wine and spitting it back out! It will also involve extensive reading of wine, including books on its history, theory, creation, and more. You should also start to take wine seriously as a hobby. This means vacationing to wine regions, joining local wine groups, reading wine magazines, and visiting local vineyards.

Here’s the good news: Becoming a Sommelier can be a lucrative profession. According to one estimate, the median certified Sommelier salary is $62,000 a year, and that’s with only 3-7 years of experience. Of course, the more you work, the more you are likely to make, and further certification and experience will likely continue to advance your salary. This, of course, will require continued education and study.

If wine is something that is important to you, a Sommelier can be a hugely useful experience. A good Sommelier can help you find a wine you like and identify good food to go with it. It can also be a somewhat lucrative and highly satisfying profession for people who are passionate about wine.