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How to Become a Sommelier

People just do not become wine experts overnight. End of story. There are those who have devoted a significant part of their life learning about it because it is a trade and – for those more sensitive about the dignity of the craft – it is an art. Essentially, in order to have some semblance of expertise, one must have drunk a significant amount of wine and learned from the experience. Of course, the requirement is beyond that. Otherwise, all the inhabitants of France can stake a claim to the position. One would need years (in addition to the requisite talent and passion) to understand concepts such as terroir and an equal number of time to apply them in practice. If you are passionate about this kind of thing, then you would want to be a sommelier. These are experts on wine like how chefs are experts in cookery.

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The sheer number of things to learn makes the sommelier training quite grueling.

So how do you become a sommelier? Well, you train.

It is possible to teach oneself or apprentice under a wine specialist and learn the ropes informally. One could become a sommelier based on the experience alone. However, the best possible approach that would not only provide knowledge and skills about wine but also recognition and some semblance of legitimacy is to study a sommelier program. Many schools such as the Culinary Institute of America or the Sydney Wine Academy.

The most prestigious institution that trains sommeliers is the Court of Master Sommeliers headquartered in London. It has branches in several countries in America and Europe. If you are serious about pursuing a career in wine trade, you would be well-advised to enroll in their diploma program. They are affiliated with some of the world renowned restaurants and wine destinations such as The Fat Duck, The French Laundry, New York’s Corkbuzz and London’s famed 28-50. An alternative institution that certifies wine professionals is the Wine & Spirit Education Trust, which is also based in London.

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The road to being a sommelier does not end in the completion of the training, at least if you want to attain the highest possible rank. Students must pass a series of examinations that will, finally, earn them the Master sommelier certification. But the sommelier examinations – as experienced by those who took them – are, to put it simply, brutal.  Consider this: there are only 200 people who passed the Master Sommelier Diploma examination since 1969.

The conventional wisdom is that a good sommelier is someone who is able to combine knowledge and experience. This is important because the responsibility to articulate the complexities of wine rests on his shoulder.

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This entry was posted on November 21, 2013 by in Tips for food and wine and tagged , , , .
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