A sommelier is a wine steward, also known as a knowledgeable wine professional who typically manages a club’s wine lists, wine cellar, wine service and more.
Not sure which wine to pair with that pan-seared duck breast with a soy plum glaze? Ask the sommelier, the club’s dedicated wine steward, who is highly trained in all aspects of wine service as well as wine and food pairings.
Most “somms” are not only well-versed in wine but other beverage services including beers, spirits, cocktails, mocktails, and mineral waters.
Sommeliers generally work closely with club and resort chefs—and in some cases even are chefs (see Understanding and Applying One-, Two- and Three-Way Wine Pairings)—to develop wine menus that perfectly complement the club’s cuisine and also represent the tastes of the membership. This individual recommends and serves wine to members and guests as part of service or on request. He or she also works closely with front-of-house staff to train and expand wine knowledge so that servers can suggest and recommend pairings based on a member’s menu choice.
The sommelier (pronounced suh-mel-yay) profession is much more demanding than that of a typical server. In order to hold the title of sommeliers, the individual must be accredited through one of the professional organizations.
Some of the top accrediting institutions include:
- The Associazone Italiana Sommelier in Italy;
- Union de la Sommellerie Francaise, Paris;
- The Court of Master Sommeliers in the United Kingdom;
- North American Sommelier Association (NASA) in the US and Canda;
- The Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WEST) in Britain.
There are four levels of sommelier certification: Intro, Certified, Advanced and Master.
The Master classification is well documented as rigorously demanding with only a 10% pass rate, making the Master Sommelier the highest achievable level for wine beverage professionals. (Read a piece from one of our industry’s leading master sommeliers here: Would Your Club Benefit from a Sommelier?)
By having someone on staff who has undergone intensive wine training to become a sommelier, clubs are more likely to build trust with members and help guide them toward wines that suit their tastes and preferences.