Wine Sommelier: who he is and what he can do

Wine sommelier is the figure in charge of the wine presentation and service. The term, sommelier, derives from the French word saumalier and means: attendant to supplies or cellarman. It is a figure that, in the course of time, has greatly evolved and whose knowledge has greatly expanded. Today his or her role is identified with the culture of wine, its presentation, service and wine-food matching. In the current society the sector of enogastronomy has recently undergone a vast increase and a wider resonance and, for this reason, the figure of wine sommelier has become more and more important.

Sommellerie: an ancient and refined art

Sommellerie has always been intended as the art of wine procurement and service. Today it has taken an almost unique meaning of wine culture, understood in its most specific semantic meaning. The art of Sommellerie has a very ancient origin.

In the past the figure of sommelier was identified with the one of the driver of beasts of burden, in Italian known as carter. With time denomination, meaning and profession has changed a lot. As a matter of fact, slowly, the term has been used to include not only the animals which carried the load of food and wine, but also the load itself. Among the many provisions, very often, there was wine which was transported and transferred to the inns.

From here to play the role of wine connoisseur, estimator and presenter, the step was very short.

Among the many characteristics and competences a sommelier must have, there is also the one of tasting wine. His role, however, must not be confused with the one of wine taster. As a matter of fact, the wine taster is related to a technical evaluation of wine, which includes, among the others, the certification and the conformity to the wine disciplinary, or to production standards. Wine sommelier, instead, besides tasting wine and evaluating its technical aspect, must also know how to present, serve and match the product. In other words, today the sommelier tells the story of the product he or she tastes and evaluates, both technically and in relation to its geographical and production environment from which it comes from.

Wine Sommelier: the tools of the profession

Whether it is a professional sommelier or an amateur one, the technical preparation is absolutely fundamental. It is necessary to study, a lot and very well, the art and the subject related to the world of wines, because it is vast and complex at times. Therefore it is not possible to improvise oneself as a sommelier. It is possible to be a sommelier thanks to experience and to studies.

But this is not enough. As a matter of fact, in order to accomplish his or her various duties, a wine sommelier must also have and know how to use many technical tools, which help him or her to do their job. Essential and fundamental tools to be used when any wine is being evaluated and served, from the prestigious Amarone della Valpolicella, to the more delicate Molinara Rosato, to the fruity and mineral Corvina Veronese.

Among the tools included in the “paraphernalia” of a sommelier, it is worth mentioning:

  • tastevin
  • corkscrew
  • frangino
  • thermometer

Sommelier vini

Tastevin

Technical instrument, by now almost completely fallen into disuse. It can still be seen tied around the neck of some nostalgic sommeliers. Today it almost represents the emblem of the category itself. The tastevin is used to hold the wine to be tasted. In the past, shape, size and materials were optimized in order to get the best efficiency and functionality. It was usually made of silver, that is a material capable of dissolving sulfur dioxide contained in young white wines. Today it is replaced by the more practical wine glass. In recent times it is also used to understand whether a sommelier is on duty or not. In fact, when the tastevin is hanging from the sommelier’s neck, it means the sommelier is working and is on duty. When the tastevin is hanging from the pocket of the sommelier’s uniform, it means he or she is not working anymore, or he or she is on a break.

Corkscrew

With this tool the wine sommelier opens the bottles. As a rule, it is pocket-sized, sober. And not showy. It is equipped with a blade, a self-tapping screw and a supporting tooth for extraction. The materials allowed are various. A self-respecting sommelier, however, cannot use the classic homemade double lever corkscrew.

Frangino

This is a small napkin made of white cotton. It is used for three different reasons

  • to dry any possible drop of wine after uncorking
  • to wrap the bottle once it has been opened
  • to dry the neck of the bottle once the wine has been served to the guests

 

Thermometer

An accessory that certainly cannot be missing in the classic instrumentation of a wine sommelier. Wine must be served at a specific temperature (for example Amarone della Valpolicella can be fully tasted when served at a temperature ranging from 16 to 18°C). This temperature is then measured with specific thermometers by wine experts in order to allow the wine to be served at the optimal temperature in order to fully appreciate its taste.

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