How to Become a Sommelier | Restaurant Business

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In restaurants that have wine as one of the principal components of their offerings there's often a wine director, or a sommelier, someone who's responsible for the wine list, the selections on the wine list, how it's priced, and the inventorying of the product that provides for the wine list. Now, if you want to become a sommelier, or a wine director, you need to start studying wine now. It's a huge subject with lots of variation and lots of nuance. It also involves multiple languages, because there's wine from almost every part of the world. You're going to need to hit the books. You're going to need to really learn about wine, not because you're going to bore your guests to tears with it, but because it will inform your selection and it will inform your understanding of how the wine will work best with the guests' dining experience.

Once you have a lot of knowledge, hopefully you're already working in a restaurant, and perhaps you're in a dining room. You've worked your way up to captain. And you're somebody who is actually involved in helping the guests to select wine. The next step after that might be to take on a position of support to the wine program. Perhaps you work with the wine director of the restaurant and help them with the inventorying of the product, with the management of the wine list itself. This gives you experience in the nuts and bolts of what it takes to run a wine program. Then, hopefully, with a lot of experience, a lot of knowledge and understanding, and a lot of tasting experience, tasting wine, you will be able to take on a position as a wine director, or sommelier, in a restaurant.

It's a position of great responsibility and great trust. Sometimes beverage alcohol can make up as much as a third of a restaurant's revenue. It is also a product that needs to be carefully controlled and inventoried so you can keep track of every dollar that's being used in the inventory of beverage alcohol. It's also a place where sales people are involved, and limiting that to an appropriate amount of interaction and an appropriate amount of control is very important in the process of running a wine program that has integrity and works well with the food and concept of the restaurant.

So, if you want to become a wine director, start learning about wine, start tasting wine, and learn about how wine contributes to the restaurant business. It's important to remember that many wine directors are managers in the restaurant. So, wine is an area of special responsibility, but it's not the entirety of their responsibility. Most restaurants have a manager who specializes in wine and runs the wine program, but they also have other responsibilities for payroll, or for running shifts, or for specific administrative tasks in the restaurant. So, you're not just the wine person. You're also a part of the management team of the restaurant."