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Food & Drink Blog

Too Many Sommeliers, Not Enough Training

by Ted Scheffler
- Posted // 2011-01-11 -

There was a time when sommeliers were to be found at only the most exclusive, fine dining establishments, usually French ones. It may sound snobby, but I sort of miss those days. Now, restaurants of all size and shape seem to employ "sommeliers," although I'm not quite sure what that term even means anymore. Just as with the word "chef," anyone can call themselves a sommelier. Some sommeliers here have no formal certification whatsoever, which doesn't mean they don't know wine, but shouldn't the term "sommelier" actually mean something? At some point, I'll do a longer Drink article about this topic.

For now, enter Jordan Mackay, who, along with co-author Rajat Parr, has written a new book Secrets of the Sommeliers.  His recent essay "Too Many Sommeliers, Not Enough Training" should be required reading for anyone who spends money on wine in restaurants. As Mackay says, "Wine is serious business." 

This piece of advice from Mackay's essay, about how diners should deal with young sommeliers, is valuable. He says, "Simply take control of the situation. Describe what you want clearly and insistently and demand to know the prices of the [wine] choices suggested." Indeed. Let's start demanding more from our so-called sommeliers and the restaurateurs who employ them. 

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