In Portugal, the equivalent of Sommelier is an Escanção. Traditionally it’s the waiter (typically a man), dedicated to serving wine in a restaurant and unfortunately, there is no female version of the profession. More and more these days you’ll meet both men and women Sommeliers outside of a restaurant working in the wine sector as buyers and sellers, wine producers, bartenders and as Chefs.
And I’m no stranger to this evolution. Since 2004 I’ve been focused on wine education for professionals and consumers.
For those of you that think it’s fantastic to spend your days tasting wines, visiting farms, and attending events, make no mistake - it's hard work.
Most Sommeliers work in a restaurant and are privileged intermediaries between the wine producer and the consumer. Not only do they choose the wines worthy of appearing on a wine list, but they also offer suggestions to the customers to better match the dishes prepared by the Chef.
To execute this profession you must have superior relationship skills, a flawless knowledge of the wine industry, and a good level of general culture. A Sommelier must answer all of the customer’s questions, whether technical, historical, or cultural. A good Sommelier listens to their clients and remains impartial, never imposing or allowing their tastes to influence their recommendations.
They should be courteous, impeccably dressed, graceful with their gestures and eloquent in speech.
Kindness, courtesy, discretion, and a touch of elegance are indispensable in this profession. A Sommelier’s suggestion must be practical and delivered with humility.
Difficult situations may arise that will test the faculties of a Sommelier. In these cases, one must put their persuasive skills into play and guide the customer towards the correct wine and food pairing while avoiding offense and a possible confrontation with the guest. If a client is more knowledgeable or shows an adventurous spirit a Sommelier can propose more audacious combinations and take a few more risks when making recommendations.
When buying wine is a part of your job description you must choose them and ensure enough stock replenishment therefore you must have management and accounting skills. A Sommelier must know the wine cellar in detail and know at all times where the stock is. Thus, it’s necessary to add the qualities of clarity and rigor to the conditions that are indispensable of a professional Sommelier.
The Sommelier must “cultivate” and improve their nose. They must participate in the tests that are possible, either with the producers, in schools, or at events.
Sommeliers must know the complete process of obtaining wines, in addition to being an excellent taster and a skilled public relations person to be able to serve a client with quality. It should not be forgotten that you must also have a vast culture of wine if you want to make use of your knowledge to answer any questions you may have with greater confidence.
A Sommelier is a humble profession, and basic training can take several years, even span a lifetime. The next time you go into a restaurant, ask for a Sommelier and let them help guide you towards your next great bottle of wine. Did you like this article? Comment below or share it now with those who may not know what a Sommelier is.
What is a Sommelier?
Since the beginning of the 20th century, a variant of the French word “sommerier, sommier”, or a person in charge of the provisions, who, by transporting the wine barrels, ended up being tasked with tasting its contents before it was served to the Kings and nobles to avoid poisoning attempts.
A wine waiter in a restaurant or other establishment, who supervises orders, the cellar and performs wine service.
Someone who judges and tastes wines and gives suggestions for their occasion