If in the previous post we commented on the origin, history and present of the sommelier profession, today we are going to cover the same topic but from a more practical point of view, as the most important thing is the functions of sommeliers.
How these professionals are going to make sure that we drink Montecillo in its optimum conditions and in the right context.
We already saw that somms (the cool way of referring to them) are in charge of all the services and tasks that wine requires on a daily basis in their place of work (shop, restaurant, hotel, bar…)
This still continues, and will continue, to be the case, but as these people are now professionals with sufficient knowledge and acquired experience in different training academies, their tasks have expanded. In addition, they are trained above all in tasting, both practical and theoretical, which is the basis for being able to detect defects and virtues and as such be able to underline the latter and advise the customer.
The professionalization of the role has led to increased competency.
Recently qualified sommeliers will have learnt about ampelography (the study of vines), the ageing of wines, harvesting, oenology (without making them oenologists), the geography of wine, the industrial structure of the sector, international commerce, legal aspects of the designations of origin, producers and languages (English and French) although we know that the latter, as in almost all professions, is the least apparent. Therefore their current tasks include:
- Wine critic: it is important that they adhere to technical standards in the selection of products for their customers that best fit their sales objectives.
- Specialist writer: the world’s best professionals are also famous for their virtues when explaining their ideas and concerns on paper (if you are the type of person who prints.)
- Consultant: here we are talking about comprehensive consultancy both to their place of work and the final consumer.
- Educator: they must be capable of getting their customers to try new things and to satisfy and evolve their tastes.
- Maître d’: the front-of-house roles are ever more united in the majority of restaurants.
- Communication and PR: their people skills are very important, not only in terms of generating sales but also that they need to know how to interact with customers so they enjoy a relaxed and enjoyable moment.
- Wine presentations: fundamental skills in opening, serving and presenting any wine that they sell.
- Tastings and private events: they should have the capacity to speak in public, although the audience may be small, they should, above all be able to communicate well.
But as we like going deeper, we are going to explain the work that a somm carries out in a restaurant, the typical environment for a professional of this type:
- Giving helpful and objective advice tailored to the customer, delivering added value.
- Opening and serving the wine at the right temperature, respecting the stages of tasting as well as keeping the service up once the bottle is on the table.
- Being responsible for checking storage conditions (temperature, humidity, smells, vibrations, light, etc.)
- Selecting and designing the wine list, as well as managing stock, there is nothing more disagreeable than a customer requesting a wine that is out of stock.
- Training the front-of-house staff.
All this should be done with the sheen of friendliness and willingness that mean that the guests enjoy a highly sophisticated gourmet experience.
As you can see we are talking about a multidisciplinary profession, having said that, it is important that the consultancy given is objective and divested of the final business.
They should never push a sale of a wine for commercial gain, their functions are orientated to the consumer’s final pleasure, taking into account their tastes and budget (requiring a highly developed level of empathy and tact.)
This is a utopian ideal; because of course there are professionals who seek solely to make the highest sale possible.
A good professional makes all the difference.