In my capacity as an advisor I often receive messages asking for advice about wine.
[Feel free to contact me any time!]
Occasionally I will be asked by a hopeful enthusiast how to become a sommelier.
This brings back memories of my own journey, from where I came to where I am now:
- The Making Of A Sommelier – Part 1
- The Making Of A Sommelier – Part 2
- The Making Of A Sommelier – Part 3
- The Making Of A Sommelier – Part 4
Of course, I will continue to grow, and I hope it will never stop.
I received the following message recently:
I have a random question for you; I have a trial shift as a sommelier at a very high end restaurant tomorrow in Vancouver, Canada. I have a strong background working in kitchens and in wine sales. I am currently taking my WSET diploma. I only have very basic service experience, which they do already know. Do you have any tips that might help tomorrow, or any expectations as to what they might expect of me on a trial shift?
I was very much in a similar situation years ago. A background in wine sales, little service experience, and now faced with a rare opportunity to discover what I might become.
This message was like the clichéd question: “What advice would I give to my younger self?”
Oddly, as I thought more deeply, I realised the advice that I had to give had very little to do with wine itself:
Hi Andrew, thank you for your email.
I suppose my advice to you would be to be proactive and show that you are a team player.
At this stage, more important than showing off your wine knowledge, you should demonstrate that you work well with others.
This means helping your colleagues to clear plates, take simple orders, etc…
As time passes you will naturally be able to demonstrate your wine knowledge.
Also, be willing to share. Your colleagues will look up to you as a source of information. They will ask if you think this wine goes well with this dish, etc…
Be calm and professional. What helps me, instead of being a sommelier, is to visualise myself as an actor, playing the role of a sommelier.
Imagine a suave gentleman, handling a bottle and wine knife with confidence, no matter if the wine is $10 or $10,000.
If it’s as high-end a restaurant as you claim, expect the unexpected. You will experience slow days, selling mid-range wines only, when suddenly a guy turns up in flip-flops and orders a 1982 Chateau Mouton-Rothschild. As a professional, take this in your stride, play the game.
Congratulations on getting your trial shift! In a world where everyone asks for “at least 3 years experience”, being able to get your foot in the door is no small feat!
Best of luck, and if you have any other questions please don’t hesitate to send me another email.
Wine Is Also About People
As I progress as sommelier, I feel that there comes a point where it becomes less about the wine and more about people.
One can always learn more and strive to be a Master, but this means nothing if you cannot share your knowledge with others.
I wish Andrew all the best. Being a sommelier is not the easiest job in the world, but if you have the affinity for the role it will be immensely rewarding.
Read more: How To Hold Six Wine Glasses At The Same Time