Ok, so now we should be very clear about what a sommelier is, let’s see what an oenologist is.
Because they are not synonyms, they are not the same profession, in actual fact they can be compatible, that is to say, someone can be both a sommelier and an oenologist. It’s not rare to find examples of this.
As in the previous post, we checked the dictionary for a definition.
From the Greek oînos ‘wine’ and -ology.
- Ensemble of knowledge relative to the production of wines.“
Evidently, as the science defines, an oenologist who would be the person who holds this knowledge. Specifically, they are the technical assessors responsible for managing the wine production process, also known in English as winemakers, although their role covers more than just making wine.
Oenologists are the professionals who supervise not only production in the winery but also the storage, analysis, preservation, bottling and sale of wine.
So as you will see, as much as a bottle is the expression of a region (and all the philosophy and art that it implies) it can only be produced through technical knowledge. From the science and training that it involves.
Oh! And you should never, but never, believe that an oenologist is a wine expert: he could be one or not.
Once this has been cleared up, the first thing that comes to mind and that differentiates oenologists from sommeliers is that they are at the start of the chain.
If sommeliers are responsible for recommending and making sure that wine arrives with the final consumer in the best condition, oenologists are responsible for producing the product.
Without an oenologist there is no wine, although there could be without a sommelier.
Oenologists, in layman’s terms, don’t need to know about wine. They may not care less what white Bordeaux, Hungarian sweet wines or South African sparkling wines are like. The indispensable factor is that they know how to make wine in the winery in which they work.
It does not matter if they have never drunk anything other than red Rioja, as the important thing is that they know how to get the most out of vines in their region.
To reassure you, we should say that the immense majority of winemakers are professionals who are extremely interested in the world of wine in its widest sense, and they not only experiment continuously to improve the final product that they make in their area of operation but they also are usually very much up-to-date in terms of other countries’ techniques and references.
In fact, we could say that we are experiencing a true age d’or in terms of Spanish winemaking that doesn’t look like it will end, at least not in the medium term.
It is not unusual for our professionals, before becoming responsible for a wine, to have carried out internships in large international wineries in France (Pétrus or Domaine de la Romanée-Conti), Australia (Clarendon Hills, Penfolds), the USA (Robert Mondavi, Kistler) or South Africa (Jordan).
In fact, the current standard of Spanish oenologists is astounding. Raúl Pérez serves as an example, an internationally recognised professional making world class wines in DO Bierzo and DO Ribeira Sacra, who was named the world’s best winemaker in 2015 by the specialist publication Bettane & Desseauve.
This was not exactly the first prize of this nature that he has received and this gentleman is just one example.
As occurred with the sommelier profession, the training that is being given in this country is of the very highest level, with the different that impressive results are starting to be seen in this field.
It is worth mentioning that there is a university Master’s Degree in Oenology currently available in Spain, which consists of four years of study accessed after graduating in Biology, Pharmaceutics, Agronomical Engineering, Chemistry or Technical Agricultural Engineering or directly (without previous university studies.)
The objectives of these studies are to “provide adequate scientific training in the methods and techniques of vine cultivation, the production of wine, grape must and other vine derivatives, analysis and storage of the products, and their management and preservation.”
In Spain, this Master’s Degree can be studied at the Universities of La Rioja, Badajoz, Tarragona, Palencia and Cádiz. All of which enjoy international prestige.
As you can see, the access to these studies ensures that our wines are of the maximum possible quality and are on the cutting edge of technology, all to guarantee the maximum quality to the customer, allowing them to fully enjoy our wines.