Sommelier is defined as:
a wine steward or a waiter in a restaurant in charge of wines.
This is a very narrow definition as a sommelier is responsible for the procurement of wines in restaurants or even large stores, wine storage, cellar rotation, and offering expert service and advice to the wine consumer.
To achieve the prestigious title of "Master Sommelier" takes years of grueling hard work, self study and a refinement of palette. Typically somewhere between 3 (if you are very lucky and very good) and 10 years. Much to the surprise of some, it is not about drinking multiple bottles of 2 Buck Chuck or even expensive wine every night. It IS equivalent to studying for and obtaining a PhD.
The very word, sommelier, previously conjured up images of a waiter (read:male) in tails, a towel over one arm and nose in the air. Giving more the impression of arrogance rather than sophistication or service.
|photo courtesy of Madison Beer Review|
I feel a strong need to dispel this myth.
Partly because I recently read "Demeanor of the Professional Sommelier" as defined by the Court of Master Sommeliers. (as part of my own self study)
The first two bullet points struck such a nerve.
- It is imperative for a sommelier to display a quietly confident but not arrogant attitude and to demonstrate superlative hospitality throughout beverage service.
- It is important for sommeliers to put themselves in the role of a server; no job or task on the floor is beneath the role of a sommelier; he or she does whatever needs to be done in the moment to take care of the guest.
Confident WITHOUT arrogance.
A role of a server (meaning to serve).
THIS isn't exactly the mental picture I had conjured up. How ZEN! How Yogic!
And partly because several months ago I had the distinct honor to meet Oklahoma's own
(and only) Master Sommelier. And she (Yes! SHE!) has utterly dispelled my myth.
According to the Court of Master Sommeliers website there are 186 Master Sommeliers worldwide.
186 on the entire planet!
In North America there are:
101 men and
exactly 17 women.
Oklahoma has one, yes only one. Master Sommelier. And she is not only 1 of 186 but
1 of ONLY 17 women.
This thrills me to no end!
|Image courtesy of Randa Warren website|
I have had the great pleasure to attend a few classes with Randa Warren. Her wine knowledge, naturally, blows me away. Every time I attend a class though I walk away touched by her patience, kindness and overall demeanor. One that quietly states humility and service as well as a joie de vivre.
Will I ever become a Master Sommelier? A girl can dream, right? It's a path I'm exploring. But I'm not sure I have the dedication and discipline to achieve something of this magnitude. Along the way though, I'll enjoy some wine, work on a humble attitude where nothing is beneath me, try to be helpful and of service to others and maybe, just maybe open up to life's lessons with less judgement. That's part of it, right?