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A sommelier is not an entry-level position. This highly skilled and talented professional helps your diners select a wine that pairs perfectly with their meal. She should have exceptional taste and exemplary customer service skills. A sommelier has an understanding of wines, their composition, how they’re made and how they affect food on your menu. While sommeliers used to be predominantly male, more women are entering the field.
Even at the most basic level, a sommelier is considered a wine steward -- not a waiter. Smaller establishments might have their sommeliers work as waiters, but they are higher paid and more skilled than the entry-level waiter. Sommeliers work in your establishment’s wine cellar and consult with your restaurant chefs to decide what wines go with what dishes. A sommelier can earn $80,000 to $160,000 in some establishments, but he must be highly experienced and knowledgeable. Entry-level sommeliers typically earn $28,000 per year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Duties and Responsibilities
Your sommelier’s hours correspond with your establishment’s dining schedule. Therefore, you should indicate whether nights, weekends or holidays are required. The sommelier should go over the wine list with his fellow wait staff and kitchen personnel before service begins. In addition to assisting your patrons with their wine selections, your sommelier takes on a few back-of-the-house roles. He is in charge of purchasing the wines and creating the wine list based on the chef recipes. The sommelier handles all wine inventory and management. Waiters are trained by the sommelier on the wine list and successful pairings. On his days off, he is expected to familiarize himself with wines and even visit wineries for tastings to familiarize himself with a large variety wines.
Having extensive knowledge of wine is a must for any sommelier. More importantly, she must present herself professionally and confidently to your patrons. She should be able to naturally educate your customers and exhibit a level of expertise. As a wine expert, she sells wines to your patrons and should improve your establishment’s wine profits. A sensitive palette and extraordinary sense of smell is important for your sommelier, since she must pair wines based on floral, herbal and fruity notes with ingredients in your menu items.
Training and Certification
Ideal candidates should have some coursework or certification in wine tasting and pairings. The Culinary Institute of America, for example, offers a wine professional course. Upon graduation, a sommelier will have a Certified Wine Professional certificate proving her expertise. A sommelier who is certified by the Court of Master Sommeliers is a candidate with exceptional wine knowledge and experience. This internationally recognized authority requires candidates to complete an introductory course before they can move on to the certified sommelier examination. The exam involves questions and blind wine tastings. A candidate who is certified as a master sommelier is rare and has exhibited exceptional skills and expertise. As of 2013, only 197 individuals have passed the master sommelier examination.
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