Monday, January 17, 2022
Reflecting on my 30-years career working with wine, including 25 years as a certified Sommelier and Wine Buyer, I have a profound respect for this profession and confidence in (most of) my peers.
Despite the annoying know-it-all attitude and often out-of-place arrogance, some may display, most Sommeliers (male and female alike) are usually very knowledgeable, passionate, and skilled.
I find those with years of experience and travels, driven by passion and curiosity, often to be the most humble and savvy wine people I know.
Whether at a restaurant, a hotel, a "caviste" (niche boutique wine store), a supermarket, a cellar, a winery, a distributor, a wholesaler, a Negociant, and/or any other places and positions requiring such profile, the role of a Sommelier is to act as a relay between the producers and the consumers to:
- tell the story behind the label (producer, history, geography, topography, climate, weather, exposure, nature of the soil and subsoil, the landscape, grape varieties, and everything else that constitutes the terroir and influences the style and taste of the wine).
- convey the message of both the producer and its wine (particularity of the producer, the vintage, a specific terroir, vineyard management, winemaking styles and techniques, ageing, etc...).
- transmit the passion and love for wine to both entertain and convince the guests and customers the recommended wine is the most ideal and fits the purpose perfectly.
- sell the wine by sharing knowledge and passion, love and conviction, opinions and facts, while respecting and understanding both the customer's needs and the wines themselves.
- make the customers travel to the place where the wine is from, speak about the wine as if you've made it, and enhance their journey with stories and images.
- treat the customers fairly, with a smile, and always with the same respect and interest, whether they want the least or the most expensive wines, or take your advice or not.
A Sommelier's knowledge, passion, love, curiosity, storytelling talent skills, as well as his or her attitude and behavior, greatly contribute to how satisfying the experience will be.
And, to conclude, without getting into too many details, (as if I was really getting deep into the subject, I could write a full book about "What is a Sommelier and what it takes to be a good one!" - maybe I should write that book 🤔😁👍🍷), for now, I will simply say that, besides all the above, a properly educated and trained Sommelier is an individual who has a very large array of knowledge and skills in many subjects, domains, and topics, and has acquired, with time and experience, the essential "savoir-faire" (know-how), to respond and accommodate any customer's inquiries, needs and demands far beyond just wine.
A properly trained Sommelier's knowledge, skills, and know-how must also cover and extend to pretty much anything you can drink, eat and smoke: from mineral water to tea and coffee, spirits, liqueurs, saké, Eaux-de-vie, cocktails, whisky, Cognac, Armagnac, and so much more, basically anything from the aperitif to the digestif, as well as to all the food on the menu in detail, from the "canapés" to the "petits fours" (or "mignardises" if you prefer) and all the various dishes in between, and of course cigars.
A properly educated and trained Sommelier is a passionate and curious individual, always eager to learn and understand, accept and adapt to new things without forgetting about the basics and the classics, who will continue to grow his or her knowledge and skills all of his or her life as the world, the people and the trends, moods, modes, and techniques evolve and change with time.
That said, and despite how he or she will evolve depending on his or her work experiences and choices, a Sommelier will always evolve with a foot anchored to certain service, culinary and hospitality traditions, which are the staples and standards of this profession, and to which a Sommelier is also very respectful and bond to.
A Sommelier is like a knight! A guardian of the old guard's know-how and traditions, about the "Art de Vivre" (Art of Living), as much as the "Arts de la Table et du Service" (Table and Service Arts) and the "Art Culinaire" (Culinary Art), (by always seconding and complementing the Chef and the rest of the team), with a "je-ne sais-quoi" of a modern twist attitude, allowing him and her to stand out (through time) as an essential and indissociable part of the wine (and spirits) and food scene, and industry.
I have received this grape back in 1997, after completing my Sommelier certification at the Hospitality and Tourism Management School of Talence (Bordeaux), and it never left my side ever since.
Proud to be a Sommelier. Proud to wear the grape. Proud to convey the message of the producers. Proud to share my knowledge and use my skills to enhance the experience of my clients, customers, and patrons.
NB: It is a beautiful grape. It was all gold 25 years ago, now it looks silver. It may have lost its gold, yet it still shines like on its first day. I broke the pin in the back, long ago, and (kind of) repaired it with a safety pin 🧷 😁👍🍷😅😅😅 It is very sentimental between my grape and I. It is my precious.
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