Wednesday, April 8, 2009

This is what a Sommelier is!!!

I have been doing this job for quite a while, probably since the late 90's, and in between I started up my own cocktail/wine bar and got myself a Bachelor of Viticultural Sciences just for the hell of it.

The principal role of a sommelier is wine purchasing, storage and list management. This, however, revolves around what type of philosophy or style the restaurant is trying to achieve with their food. This is where the sommelier works alongside the chef to develop a list that is suitable for what is leaving the kitchen pass.

Once this is known, the sommelier is responsible for overall delivery of wine service and training for the other restaurant staff (those, of course, who are not experts in everything). The sommelier is in direct contact with restaurant guests and is there to make suggestions or help them through what can sometimes be wine lists that resemble the Yellow Pages, and ultimately work within parameters of budget and personal taste.

Now sometimes the sommelier will take your wine away and taste it themselves. Don't worry, they are not going to pour themselves a glass. We do this to check for any wine spoilage that may be present such as cork taint, oxidation or brettanomyces infection. A good sommelier knows what these spoilages smell like and more often than not, the sommelier will simply pour the wine back into the bottle or decanter, unless it is something shit-hot and they will have a wee sip for themselves (I can just imagine you all sitting up in your chairs thinking, 'hang on there') - wine is yum.

During the Ancien Regime, the King's household had several sommeliers whose primary role was to receive the wine bought by the sommiers (from French meaning betes de somme, 'beasts of burden'). During the reign of Louis XIV, the sommelier was the official in charge of the transport of baggage when the court moved; don't worry, if you come to my restaurant I will not hide your bags - scouts honour.

So when you next go out for dinner and the sommelier comes over with the wine list for a chat, don't be scared to engage in conversation; we are not all wine wankers. We really just want you to have the best bottle or glass of wine with your meal, and not just Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc all the time, cos the stuff is not good for you - we all know what happened to the Marlborough man now don't we!

1 comment:

  1. This goes a long way to explaining why, when we go on holidays, you have the car packed in about 3 minutes flat!