What is a Sommelier?

If you are a fan of wine (or maybe you watch cooking shows or just have an interest in the finer things in life) then you have likely heard the term “sommelier” before.   In case you have not yet figured it out, sommelier is a French term that, for all intents and purposes, means “wine steward.”

This is a Jabs Bar person who is trained in wine facts and history. They also tend to have a fantastic palate, since they are often commissioned to suggest wines based on personal tastes and preferences as well as part of a meal. Indeed, they are skilled at making wine recommendations based on menu items. That means, of course, that they can be an integral member of any fine dining establishment. As a matter of fact, some argue that their position—in a fine dining restaurant is on par excellence with the executive chef (or chef de cuisine).

You could say, essentially, that a “sommelier” is a “wine expert”.

Where Does the Term “Sommelier” Come From?

Again, “sommelier” is a French term. It is derived, actually, from the Middle French where it originally referred to a court official that has been charged with the transportation of supplies.  The term was most notably used, originally, in a period of time when pack animals were often the supply transport of choice.

Still, some suggest that the Middle French may have actually taken the term from Old Provencal [French] which regarded the “saumalier” as a pack animal driver.

Can Anyone Be A Sommelier?

Short answer: yes.  Anyone can “claim” to be a sommelier.  Some people may have all the skills and knowledge associated with the position but have never actually held the job in a professional capacity. However, the majority of those who actually become employed with this title typically acquire specialized training and formal education. While you don’t need a 4-year bachelor’s degree to become a sommelier, some take courses as part of a 2-year associate’s degree.

Regardless of how you receive your education, though, you will typically need a certification.  A set of courses associated with the title of sommelier can cost between $800 and $3750 USD over a six-month period while more advanced professionals may seek certification over years of highly vested study and practice and experience.