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What Is A Sommelier?

Sommelier is the French term for a wine steward, but can refer to persons with expertise in wines and spirits. In a restaurant setting, a sommelier is a waiter or waitress who is prepared to give advice on what type of wine complements a certain meal. As the consumer public is more educated about different types of wines and their presentation, the role of the sommelier is more important than ever for fine dining establishments.

What Does A Sommelier Do?

A sommelier will supervise the selection, presentation, opening, and serving of wine at the diners' table. The sommelier in a restaurant is in charge of increasing the sales of wine, and does so through the expert selection of wines and the transmission of that knowledge to other restaurant staff. Professional presentation and serving of wine increases the likelihood that customers will return and again order wines with their meals.

Characteristics Of A Sommelier

Sommeliers must have a fine-tuned sense of taste and smell, and be able to distinguish the subtleties of different types of wines and spirits. In addition, they need to be expert in the culinary style of that particular restaurant and be able to match a selection of wines to the chosen menu. Sommeliers also need to be wine evangelists in their restaurant and educate their colleagues. In relation to the customer, the sommelier needs to be able to make a good case as to why the customer should spend the extra $20 or $30 for a bottle of Italian wine, for example. More information about training to become a sommelier is available through the International Sommelier Guild, the Sommelier Society of America, or the American Sommelier Association. Currently, the Court of Master Sommeliers is the highest regarded certification for professional sommeliers.

The Nitty Gritty: Salary

Sommeliers who are waiters make approximately the same salary as their colleagues, though wine directors for large restaurants can earn upwards of $50,000 annually.

Schools to consider: