What is a Sommelier? Let’s Get to Brass Tacks
The term has two meanings:
- A Sommelier’s job is running the beverage program at a restaurant, with a focus on the wine list. A less sexy name for this job is “Beverage Manager.” The job actually predates restaurants: back in the Victorian era, a Sommelier was a servant in charge of the wines and liquors. The British term for the job was “wine butler” Fortunately for us, the French term “Sommelier” stuck. I doubt so many people would be clamoring to become a master wine butler.
- Wine Certification. Somm education and certification used to be solely for the restaurant trade. Over the past decade, it has expanded considerably. People with this type of certification work in many parts of the wine trade (even winemakers!).
You can check out our full guide to becoming a certified sommelier right here: https://somm.us/become-a-sommelier/
Get the Pronunciation Correct!
The term is French, so it is gendered. Here are the two pronunciations:
- Sommelier (masculine) is pronounced soh/mə/lyay
- Sommelière (feminine) is pronounced soh/mə/lyair
What folks mean when they say they want to be a somm
Most people who want to become a somm don’t necessarily want to work at a restaurant. They want to buy and taste wine for a living. While that may seem like a pipe dream, pretty much any job in the trade includes tasting wine. And many jobs include buying it, too.
Wine certification is a good path into the wine trade. Can you call yourself a Somm if you don’t work in a restaurant? I’d suggest not. However, you can proudly identify yourself as having certification.
Just as important as the certification body is the school you attend. Here is a list of accredited wine schools across the United States, along with their rankings:
Wine Schools of America. There are plenty of great schools across the US to consider.