Ladies and Gentlemen,
I have had the pleasure of working with a few great eateries in the Denver area during the holiday season as a sommelier. I left the restaurant business full-time in 2004 to focus on selling wine and educating their buyers and staff. There are a few things I have noticed during service (the term we in the industry refer to when diners comes to eat), and wanted to share them with you..
1. There are a number of diners that have been to wine country more often than ‘beverage industry’ folk.
2. There are a number of diners that think Zinfandel is a blush wine exclusively.
3. There are a number of diners and service staff that think Burgundy is a grape variety, not a region.
4. There are a number of diners that want to be left alone when making a selection from the wine list.
5. Service staff are happy to see a dedicated, passionate, and knowledgeable sommelier on the floor.
6. Once you get talking to most folks about wine, they get interested about the subject, and end up wanting to learn more about it…
The Websters’ Definition of a Sommelier is ‘a waiter in a restaurant who has charge of wines and their service; a wine steward’.
So, based on the above, it sounds like a menial position. And yes, much of what a sommelier does is menial. Moving cases, restocking bins, emptying boxes and clearing the cellar is ‘warehouse work’. All you would need is a forklift, and it could be a job in any industry. But the real joy and purpose comes from sharing the history, background, and region with the guest. How does it pair with your food, and why is it going to make your experience a better one?
I say more restaurants should dedicate another position to a viable beverage program that can, and rightfully does, create additional revenue flow. It raises the level of service, bringing diners back again and again. It’s just good business sense, when food costs continue to rise, and an effective way to make money is through beverage sales.