Becoming a Sommelier
There are many jobs in the food industry that don’t require cooking, or handing food. One of those jobs is that of a sommelier, or professional wine steward. You’ll fine a wine steward in almost every five star restaurant in the world.
What is a sommelier?
A sommelier is basically an expert at wine. This includes more than just tasting, but also knowing how to store wine, which wines to pair with which foods, and how create the perfect wine list for a particular restaurant. They must know proper serving techniques, the best glasses to drink certain wines in, and proper temperatures. Very often it is the sommelier who must train service staff such as bartenders and waiters on the wine list, so that they at least have some knowledge when interacting with customers.
You will find a sommelier in high end restaurants and fine dining establishments where diners are more likely to order expensive wines and want the perfect wine for their meal. While many lower end restaurants do serve wine, they don’t necessarily need to have a wine steward on staff at all times.
A good sommelier not only knows a lot about wine, but also about food, since most wine is drank with a meal. Very often sommeliers are trained in food service with many having degrees in culinary arts and a restaurant background.
How do I become a sommelier?
The obvious answer is to learn as much about wine as you possibly can through tasting, reading about, and keeping up to date on the latest trends including the best vineyards and grape varieties.
The next step is education. Many sommeliers start out as foodies interest in cooking and discover a passion for wine along the way, and may have a culinary arts degree or degree in hospitality. While these are helpful, they are not as helpful as getting your sommelier certification.
There are different levels of certification, beginning with an introductory course and working your way up to being a Master Sommelier. If you want to work as a wine steward in the best restaurants these certifications are of utmost importance. These classes and certifications show commitment, as well as proven knowledge.
To become a Master Sommelier, you must first pass all three previous certifications, and then be invited to complete the Master Sommelier course. This is the top professional certification in the industry and is internationally recognized among five star restaurants, high end hotels and other quality food service establishments.
These certifications are not necessary to become a sommelier, but to prove your knowledge and passion they are certainly helpful. They will help find better paying jobs and gain respect in both the wine industry as well as the culinary world.
To learn more about wine without investing a lot in education, a good place to start is a local wine shop, as a salesman or clerk. You may not learn enough to achieve master status right away, but you will gain knowledge and insight talking to customers and shop owners, and you’ll be involved in wine tastings as well. This is also a great way to meet other wine professionals and top chefs and begin building your professional contacts. Many top professionals in the wine industry got their start by doing these exact things.
Becoming a sommelier requires a breadth knowledge and dedication and is not something that will happen overnight, but if you are passionate about wine and willing to do what it takes to get there, you can enjoy a long and rewarding career, whether you decide to become certified or not.
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