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What is a sommelier?

Learn all about what a sommelier does, how much they're paid, and much more!

What is a sommelier

DISCLAIMER: This content is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal, accounting, tax, HR, or other professional advice. You are responsible for your own compliance with laws and regulations. You should contact your attorney or other relevant advisor for advice specific to your circumstances.

What is a sommelier?

A sommelier is a wine specialist that buys wine to pair with dishes. They have to have extensive knowledge of wine and a developed palate to be able to taste wines’ subtle flavor notes. Sommeliers take classes to learn all about wine flavors and processing so that they can know what to expect when tasting and purchasing wines for a restaurant.

Sommeliers often also help with service in fine dining restaurants. Guests that want an exceptional wine pairing for their meals rely on the judgment of the sommelier. They must have some understanding of business practices to purchase and price wines by the glass and bottle.

What are a sommelier’s duties and responsibilities?

A sommelier’s duties and responsibilities include:

  • Create and update the wine list with the food and beverage manager

  • Understand the flavor profiles of a wide range of wines

  • Recommend wine paring with dishes

  • Advise guests on wine choices based on personal preference and orders

  • Match wines with the proper stemware

  • Train service staff and bartenders on wine pairings

  • Build relationships and negotiate with wine vendors

  • Order wine for the restaurant

Comply with food safety standards and alcohol service regulations 

How much are sommeliers paid?

Sommeliers earn between $47,400 and $76,000 annually, on average. The earning potential of a sommelier depends on the kind of business or restaurant for which they work.

What are the qualities that make a good sommelier?

A good sommelier has expert knowledge of wines, including the processes required to make wine, the growing regions of wine grapes, and the flavor profiles of a wide variety of wines. They should also have a developed palette to be able to taste the subtle flavors of wine.

If a sommelier works in a restaurant, they need to have knowledge of the menu so that they can suggest appropriate wine pairings. They need to have good interpersonal skills, as well, to be able to communicate with customers and the restaurant’s service staff.

How to become a sommelier

Becoming a sommelier requires a passion for wine and a certification as a sommelier. There are sommelier certification courses available in many cities and online. Sommeliers have to taste a lot of wine, so it’s important that you enjoy wine and are able to retain a lot of knowledge about varieties.

Experience working in food service is also a plus for a sommelier. Sommeliers work in a variety of businesses and knowledge of the food and beverage industry is required for many of them.

How to hire a sommelier?

When looking to hire a sommelier, make a detailed list of the job duties you expect them to perform for your business. Remember to consider the hours and availability you expect of candidates.

When interviewing candidates, test their wine knowledge and assess their interpersonal skills. Be sure to verify their certifications and qualifications and hire the candidate with the best combination.

Applicants with sommelier certifications might be hard to come by. Building a relationship with local sommelier certification courses can be a good way to access qualified candidates.

Sommeliers are wine sales experts and they often have passion for the work. Many sommeliers turn that passion and expertise into stable, fulfilling careers.

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