Food, Schools of Thought

How To Make A Living Drinking Wine: Sommelier 101

I’m no wine connoisseur, or even wine enthusiast. A $10 bottle is more than fine by me. Yet, there’s certainly something intriguing and coveted about knowing things about wine.

There are a few ways you can make a living drinking wine. One is owning a vineyard, I’m sure you thought of that one on your own. The other is by becoming Marissa A. Ross, who has popularized the “Ross Test” which is basically getting together with your friends (who sometimes happen to be Mindy Kahling) and drinking wine straight from the bottle. She also has some great thoughts on L.A. which I’ve detailed here.

But, the most prestigious and rigorous way to make a living off of drinking wine is to become a sommelier.

What is a Sommelier?

Wikipedia describes it as:

“A sommelier or wine steward, is a trained and knowledgeable wine professional, normally working in fine restaurants, who specializes in all aspects of wine service as well as wine and food pairing. The role is much more specialized and informed than that of a wine waiter: In fine dining today the role is strategically on a par with that of the executive chef or chef de cuisine.”

A semi-humorous picture of a Somm from Wikipedia

What does that mean exactly? A sommelier (Somm for short) is someone who has gone through intense training to learn EVERYTHING there is to know about wine. They need to know where the wine came from, what sort of grape and flavors it’s made with and what year it was made all from simply smelling and tasting it. A somm works at fine restaurants, aka fancy and probably expensive to help curate the wine list, make sure it pairs with the menu perfectly, and to provide his services of food and wine pairing for each customer at the restaurant. Behind the scenes a somm will work on wine procurement, the storage of the wine, and cellar rotation. It’s a prestigious job in a world that cares increasingly about where it’s food and drink comes from.

It doesn’t sound that exciting when written in words. In fact, going to a restaurant with a somm is fairly unremarkable unless you know what that somm went through to gain the title of sommelier.

How To Become a Master Sommelier:

I watched the documentary SOMM on a whim (it’s on Netflix) and became quickly intrigued. Watching them do a taste test is so mind-boggling.

The Master Sommelier candidate will pick up a glass of wine, and smell it, swish it around, and smell it again. Then the discourse begins. “The wine is clear, bright, it has a medium intensity, a lemon green core, the nose is clean, medium intense aromas, lemon lime citrus, green apple, melon rind.” The somm takes a sip and thinks. “The wine is dry, medium plus acidity. Flavors of fruit, medium long finish. No evidence of Oak.” Finally concluding, “This wine is a New World wine, moderate to cool climate. Sauvignon Blanc, Margaret River, Australia, 2010.”

I highly recommend you watch the documentary for a further glimpse into the word of a Master Sommelier Candidate. That way, next time you find yourself at a restaurant with a Sommelier, you’ll be the “cultured” one explaining to everyone else what a Somm does.