A sommelier or wine steward is a person who is an expert in fine wine and is responsible for serving it to patrons. Sommelier is French in origin and originally a wine stewards job was to serve royalty. The modern sommeliers offer their services to fine restaurants. Although most wine stewards are men (69% of them), there are many women stewards as well. A sommelier should know detailed information about wine including such things as the types of grapes used to make a particular wine, in what region the grapes were grown, the vineyards where the grapes were grown, a wines ratings and the vintages of the various wines.
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In addition to serving wine, a wine steward has several other responsibilities. These responsibilities include:
Many sommeliers travel all over the world to taste new wine and to attend food and wine conventions. A good wine expert will know all the current trends in the food & drink industry. He will also help patrons to feel comfortable with tasting wines and help them choose a delicious wine in their price range. Sommeliers can also learn more about wine through the opinions of their customers.
In short, a good wine steward will be able to make his patrons dining experience memorable by suggesting wines that will enhance the flavours of the foods that they are eating.
One can gain some general knowledge and experience with wine by doing such things as getting a job as a waiter or waitress in an upscale restaurant, working for a wine retailer, obtaining a job pouring wine in a winery tasting room and simply talking to wine experts.
The International Sommelier Guild or ISG offers courses for aspiring wine experts. Their program is a six month-long intensive program that meets eight hours a day, once per week. Their students must complete certain elective and mandatory courses to get the Grand Sommelier Diploma.
The Court of Master Sommeliers is an internationally known organization that offers training to existing wine stewards who would like to become masters in their fields. Founded in Great Britain, this organization administered their first exam in 1969. To meet this goal, one must complete all the following steps:
After successfully completing all the above steps, one may receive an invitation to join the The Court of Master Sommeliers.
The Institute of Masters of Wine, which was also founded in Great Britain, has offered a Master of Wine Certification to those persons who complete their program and successfully pass their exam. There are only about 247 Master of Wine certificate holders and only 124 Master Sommeliers around the entire world.
Although many sommeliers work in upscale restaurants, there are many other places and ways he/she can earn his or her money as well. These include:
The salary of a wine steward varies depending upon such things as how much experience he/she has, the place of employment and the city where one works. However, the average range is anywhere from $36,000 to $54,200. Bonuses can range from $1,000 to $5,400 and commissions can range anywhere from $1,000 to as much as $25,000. Most sommeliers also receive a benefit package including medical, dental and vision insurance.