Want to become a sommelier but need more advice on how? In this expert career guide on how to become a professional sommelier we explain what sommeliers do and which skills, qualifications and training you may need to become one.
The role of a sommelier
Sommeliers primarily have a service based role, as they usually work in restaurants to meet the needs of customers whilst ensuring the wines are paired well with the menu.
Their role includes knowledge and experience on vineyards and managing cellars in order to keep track of deliveries, wine storage and stock levels. They are skilled in wine buying, wine tasting and serving customers by using the appropriate glasses as well as training their colleagues and staff. Below we have put together an expert guide about the requirements needed to become a sommelier.
Qualities and skills needed to become a sommelier
In order to become a sommelier you must strive to surpass expectations. Sommeliers are good at adapting to different environments and are quick on their feet especially when the demand for serving customers is high. They also work hard to obtain sound knowledge on both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, food and wine pairing as well as keeping up with the latest wine trends.
Good Research Skills
Pursuing a career as a sommelier involves independent research and study into different types of wine and where they are cultivated in the world. In-depth research into different wines and how they are made will prove to be a great piece of knowledge that will fundamentally prepare you for such exciting role. Acclaimed Wine Development Manager at Le Cordon Bleu London, Matthieu Longuere MS advises: “it is important to know of alternative wines that can be offered to customers as the one they originally want may not be available on the wine list, hence good knowledge on different types of wine will help you to make the right food pairing. Sommeliers are also open minded about what customers like as they do well to remember that they are not buying wine for themselves.”
Good People Skills
Sommeliers are dedicated in providing a very high level of service. They achieve this by putting their customers first and are skilled in delivering the best customer care to ensure their guests are comfortable. Sommeliers work in the hospitability industry so they ensure they are approachable and compatible with other workers in order to uphold a positive outlook on the company they work for.
Learning the Wine Etiquette
It is vital to possess good manners when handling wine and tasting it. Sommeliers are specialists in certain techniques such as how to pour drinks and how to serve guests. For example: holding the bottle near the base, giving equal portions or ensuring the glassware is clean.
Sommeliers master the art of multitasking and good concentration as they deal with fragile bottles and glassware. In order to minimise human error, they have to make sure they provide accurate information to the customers such as citing the correct price of the wine or serving the right wine.
What is a Master Sommelier?
When you become a Master Sommelier, it means you have achieved the highest level of proficiency and knowledge in your profession.
The Master Sommelier Diploma is one of the world’s most challenging wine examinations. It was created nearly 50 years ago and only 249 people have passed the exams since its creation. Master Sommeliers are advanced in their career and display their theoretical and practical knowledge on areas such as beverage management, methods of distillation and how liquors, beers and spirits are produced.
“Master Sommeliers never stop working as they combine both their theoretical knowledge with working on the floor. The Master Sommelier Diploma exam is made up of four different stages that assesses key areas such as wine tasting and service skills” explains Matthieu Longuere MS who became Master Sommelier in 2005.
In addition, Master Sommeliers are experts in sales as they use their professionalism to encourage customers to purchase recommended beverages and thus increase sales. They are confident in their craft and also ensure they leave a good impression on customers so that they return.
Master Sommelier can be easily recognised thanks to their badge and to the letter MS that are following their name.
What qualifications and training is needed to be a sommelier?
Sommeliers are not required to complete education in the field of wine, however it can be beneficial in climbing up the career ladder. There are world-renowned qualifications that can be taken to increase your knowledge of oenology and position you well in the competitive industry. For example Le Cordon Bleu London offers a Diploma in Wine, Gastronomy and Management. This is a 6 month long full-time course, which enables aspiring sommeliers to develop key areas such as wine sensory analysis, wine production, food and wine pairing, marketing and business management.
Students also have the opportunity to gain experience of being a sommelier by taking an internship. The Internship Pathway offered by Le Cordon Bleu London allows students to get hands-on experience in the workplace for 3 months upon completing the Diploma in Wine, Gastronomy and Management programme.