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A sommelier (// or //; French pronunciation: [sɔməlje]), 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 more specialized and informed than that of a wine waiter.
A sommelier may also be responsible for the development of wine lists, and for the delivery of wine service and training for the other restaurant staff. Working along with the culinary team, they pair and suggest wines that will best complement each particular food menu item. This entails the need for a deep knowledge of how food and wine, beer, spirits and other beverages work in harmony. A professional sommelier also works on the floor of the restaurant and is in direct contact with restaurant patrons. The sommelier has a responsibility to work within the taste preference and budget parameters of the patron.
In modern times, a sommelier's role may be considered broader than working only with wines, and may encompass all aspects of the restaurant's service, with an enhanced focus on wines, beers, spirits, soft-drinks, cocktails, mineral waters, and tobaccos.
The modern word is French, deriving from Middle French where it referred to a court official charged with transportation of supplies. This use of the term dates to a period when pack animals would be used to transport supplies. The Middle French probably finds its origin in Old Provençal where a saumalier was a pack animal driver. Sauma referred to a pack animal or the load of a pack animal. In Late Latin, sagma referred to a packsaddle.
Education and certification
Though 'sommelier' is a job title potentially anyone may claim, becoming a certified sommelier requires classes and an examination. The certification is offered by a wide range of educators, and a basic education may be attained for US$800–$3,750 over the course of six months.
The Court of Master Sommeliers, (CMS) established in 1977, is an independent examining body that offers the 'Master Sommelier Diploma', the 'Advanced Sommelier Certificate', the 'Certified Sommelier Certificate', and the 'Introductory Sommelier Certificate'; and was created under the supervision of the following British based institutions: The Vintners Company, The Institute of Masters of Wine, The British Hotels & Restaurants Association, The Wine and Spirit Trade Association of Great Britain and The Wholesale Tobacco Trade Association. Since the Master Sommelier Diploma was introduced in 1969, 214 people from around the world had become Master Sommeliers by the end of 2013.
The Court also offers intermediate levels of education including the annual "Advanced Sommelier Course", which prepares invited candidates to sit for the Advanced Exam, generally offered 2-3 times per year. Taking the Advanced Course and passing the Advanced Exam are mandatory before sitting for the Masters Exam.
The International Sommelier Guild (ISG) is another organization that educates and certifies sommeliers in Canada, China and the USA. The programme consists of level 1 wine fundamentals, level 2 wine fundamentals and a sommelier diploma.
More recently, the North American Sommelier Association is another organization that provides Sommelier Certification. "NASA", as it's sympathetically referred to, was founded in 2006 and is the official representative in the United States and Canada of the Worldwide Sommelier Association, a global umbrella organization that oversees various Sommelier associations and educational institutes around the world. Somewhat different from other schools, NASA's Certified Sommelier course is divided into 3 phases/levels but is offered as 1 entire course and includes extensive class time, lectures, educational visits to wineries and educational dinners. Aside from the Sommelier Certification, the North American Sommelier Association also provides various smaller specialization courses like the 'Italian Wine Specialist', 'American Wine Specialist' and various master-classes such as 'Master Of Terroir', 'Master of Sangiovese', 'Master of Service' and 'Master Wine Taster'. The majority of the course materials are published by the association itself. 'NASA' also possesses an active associative life of its members with referrals, seminars, events, dinners and tastings.
In South Africa, the Cape Wine Academy introduced the Cape Sommelier™ programme, leading to certification as a Cape Wine Master. This was in response to a huge demand, and support from the hospitality industry, for a suitable professional qualification, and to ensure that South Africa's service levels compete globally.
Other types of sommelier
The terms beer sommelier and sake sommelier are sometimes used for beer and sake. In Japan, sommelier describes not only wine experts but other fields of expertise, for instance music sommelier, or vegetable sommelier which is a certification delivered by the Japan Vegetable Sommelier Association (日本野菜ソムリエ協会).
- Beer sommelier
- Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin
- Maître d'
- Master of Wine
- Wine accessory
- Court of Master Sommeliers
- Wine and Spirit Education Trust
- winepros.com.au. The Oxford Companion to Wine. "sommelier".
- "sommelier". The Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Retrieved 2009-02-27.
- Lane, Randall, Slate (July 18, 2002). "Alcohol Testing: Can a regular guy pass the sommelier SATs?".
- Robinson, Jancis, jancisrobinson.com (June 29, 2005). "Master Sommeliers - who are they?".
- "THE WORLD’S MOST DISTINGUISHED WINE EXPERTS ADD TO THEIR RANKS".
- "International Sommelier Guild".
- "The Cape Sommelier Program".
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