With documentary films and television series leading the way, the sommelier profession has received unprecedented attention from people of all walks of life. This emergence from obscurity shares much in common with the rise of celebrity chefs from the past decade.
On balance, I think this is a good thing. Taking the example of celebrity chefs, people have become much more informed about cooking techniques, food sourcing and sustainability, regardless of the business/marketing/advertising opportunities that are being exploited.
As people become more exposed to the world of wine, their appreciation for the diversity of styles and origins will also grow. Fewer people will simply order the “house red”, becoming more inquisitive and open to exploring new tastes. Again, following the example of the chef, opportunities will be exploited.
While celebrity chefs are still held in high regard, my perception is that the unchained adoration of the audience has settled – a new toy has come to take their attention away, and only the true fans remain. In other words, the peak has been reached, settling onto a plateau, with a gentle decline being quite possible in the future.
A similar pattern could be awaiting the “celebrity sommelier“. Attention is peaking, people are excited and engaged, but this will not last for much longer.
In business terms, the market will “correct” itself – some will remain as true wine enthusiasts, others may veer off-course into snobbery, and the majority will chase the newest trend. Celebrity accountants, anyone?
Business As Usual
No matter what happens, the sommelier will still be there plying his trade and providing the best service he possibly can.
Fashions may come and go, but real quality will always be there for those who know where to look.