The word “Sommelier” might seem like an obvious “Wine Word of the Week” but I wanted to feature it as much for its definition as its pronunciation. I often see well-intentioned wine lovers tongue-tied with fear at the prospect of having to say the word aloud. I’m happy to take this opportunity to break it down and demystify it once and for all!
Sommelier is a French term that means “wine steward” or “a waiter in a restaurant who is in charge of serving wine,” according to Merriam-Webster. The correct pronunciation (drumroll please) is “suh-mel-YAY” and it rhymes with the word “everyday.” To dig a little deeper, Jancis Robinson’s “The Oxford Companion to Wine” states, “The sommelier’s job is to ensure that any wine ordered is served correctly and, ideally, to advise on the individual characteristics of every wine on the establishment’s wine list and on food and wine matching.”
Certain organizations such as the Court of Master Sommeliers (where yours truly received her certification) have a series of courses and exams which serve to evaluate potential candidates according to their standards of service and performance and commend certifications accordingly. One does not necessarily have to achieve certification from an organization, however, to perform the job of a sommelier in a restaurant or other establishment. Hands-on experience and self study can also provide the knowledge necessary to perform the duties required of this position.
Now go forth with your newfound knowledge and impress your friends and wine snobs alike with your ability to summon the sommelier with ease!