A sommelier? It that the person who gets paid to sip wine all day?
Well yes (and no). A sommelier does taste a lot of wine, but that’s only a fraction of their role. They meet with loads of people from wine companies who are trying to sell them wines (so yes, the tasting part of the job is hugely important). They also look after everything, from ordering wine, to filling the cellar, to counting, (sometimes huge quantities), of wine for stocktake (not to mention being on the restaurant floor seven or eight lunch and dinner services per week).
It still seems such a glamorous job: Charming people and selling them great wines.
It can be glamorous selling great (and sometimes really expensive) wines to people, but that’s not what the job is about. The job of a sommelier is to communicate the role of wine in whichever setting they’re in: a formal restaurant, a casual eatery or a bar. It’s not about showing off their knowledge or expressing a certain point of view, but connecting with a guest and giving them a wine experience that they would not have achieved otherwise.
Think you could do it?
The role requires a lot more than people might initially think. Besides the formal training and qualifications (which require months of study and tasting as preparation) it takes years of service experience to work up to the title of becoming a fully trained and certified sommelier. Besides the long hospitality hours, there’s the endless time tasting and reading (in your spare time) to stay up to date. You need to live and breathe it.
Cam O'Keefe is currently a sommelier at Harry & Frankie's and is also a finalist in the 2014 Vin de Champagne Awards.