An Attack on “Young” Sommeliers

In his latest article, Jordan MacKay addresses the fact that “Young” Sommeliers need more training and are providing inadequate service to diners.  While I agree with most of his statements, I think his attack on the “Young” part is far unnecessary and wrong.  We’ve found an equal balance of good and poor young AND older sommeliers nationwide. Even recently we had a dining experience in which an experienced and well-respected sommelier steered us in the direction of a bottle of wine that was a poor match for our meals, expensive and not a match for our taste (which he could have deducted from the previous bottles of wine we ordered).

For me the key issues lie in:

1.  Training:  Training programs for sommeliers are limited, expensive and lack the key ‘real world experience’ necessary for any sommelier to do a superior job managing a wine program and providing reccomendations for customers.  Suspenquently, the wait staff receives poor training from the sommelier and the restaurants wine program deteriorates.

2. Ego:  Like sports stars and and chefs, sommeliers are beginning to see some lime light and have been put on a bit of a pedestal due to the Master Court of Sommeliers difficult program (which many of these sommeliers are not) and the increasing popularity of premium food and wine…all we need is a reality TV show to put them into full celebrity status.  The problem is that many of these sommeliers are in the business for the wrong reasons.  They have forgotten that their job responsibility is satisfaction of the customer and at the end of the day profitability for the restaurant.  Too many are in the business for the simple fact of being able to say “I’m a Sommelier at Restaurant…”  and access to highly allocated wines (and wholesale prices).  Being a sommelier does require a lot of training and knowledge of wines and the wine world, but the core value still relies in good old customer service.

3.  Ownership:  Many restauranteurs are good at managing restaurants but do not have a good grasp on the wine business.  They think by hiring a sommelier and having them put together a list of highly rated wines, they will develop a excellent wine program.  Not quiet right.  Who’s responsible for problems 1 & 2?  Ownership.  Ownership/management should give their employees adequate opportunities and time for quality training and provide them direction about the wine program goals and service mentality.  Only for that to happen, these executives need to have training and a direction themselves.

It is easy to blame ‘young’ sommeliers and generalize that many of the problems with wine programs across the country right now are committed by them.  However, as a whole the U.S. wine program has never been up to snuff versus other countries in the world.  We all crave fast & easy fixes, money, and the lime light – the wrong combination applied to a career as a sommelier.  Restauranteurs and sommeliers alike need to return to the day of  ‘the customer is always right’ and remember that their job at the end of the day is to please their customers.

To read Jordan MacKay’s full article,  follow this link:  Jordan Mackay: Young Sommeliers Need More Training.

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Posted on January 6, 2011, in Wine and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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