Definition - What does Sommelier mean?

A Sommelier is a certified wine professional trained in tasting and pairing wines. They have an intimate knowledge of wine terms, regions, characteristics and tastings. Sommelier and Master Sommelier are the second highest ranks in the wine-tasting industry, with the highest being Master of Wine.

Usually found in higher end restaurants, they are wine stewards, not servers. Their role is to provide wine pairing options to the clientèle selected based on their experience and knowledge in the field. In addition to making suggestions to the clientèle, the sommelier maintains the business's cellar, keeps abreast of the industry news and trends, and coaches the wait staff on which wines to suggest for meals, and often works with the chef on menu planning.

WineFrog explains Sommelier

Good sommeliers have a heighten sense of smell and a sensitive palate. They have the knowledge and experience to pair the subtle scents and notes in a wine with the flavors of any dish on the menu. Certified sommeliers will also have extensive background on wine regions - whether terroir or winemaking technique will create drastic or minute changes to the characteristics of the natural grape.

An in-house professional usually found at higher end restaurants, a sommelier’s responsibilities include:

  • creating wine lists & menus for any price point
  • providing wine service to the clientele
    • answering questions
    • making suggestions that work within the taste preference and budget
    • educating clients on wine etiquette and tasting
    • describing the specific taste characteristics and aromas that define a wine
    • explaining how those characteristics match with the ingredients of a dish
  • training other restaurant staff
  • working with the executive chef on wine and food pairings
  • deciding if and when wines should be decanted & doing it
  • maintaining the wine cellar, which means they are:
    • sourcing wine
    • purchasing wine
    • storing wine
  • Hosting and attending wine tasting events
  • Networking with distributors and vendors
For a restaurant, the most important quality in a Sommelier is the ability to comport themselves professionally and confidently; for the patrons, it is the extensive knowledge and experience. Most sommeliers are trained and certified by a governing body in their country, such as the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers (CAPS), International Sommelier Guild (ISG) or Worldwide Sommelier Association (WSA).
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