What does it take to be the perfect sommelier? Tony Aspler
offers his top nine suggestions.
A great sommelier is a cross between a midwife and a white-water rafting guide. They can help you navigate safely and painlessly through a wine list as thick as a telephone book with grace and respect. A top-flight sommelier, secure and confident in their knowledge, can do this without condescension or having to spend 10 minutes lecturing you on the winemaker’s resumé and the weather report the day your simple Beaujolais was harvested.
Some simple rules to govern the behaviour of the person who hovers over your table should be:
- I will not roll my eyes when someone mispronounces ‘Riesling.’
- I will not argue with the client if they say the wine is ‘corked.’ I will whisk the bottle away and bring another. (It can always be sold by the glass at the bar if there’s no problem with it.)
- I will not try to up-sell the host to the most expensive wine on the list.
- I will not pour glasses so full that after the fourth glass the bottle is empty and the table has to order another bottle.
- I will not suggest I taste the bottle of Château Pétrus to see if it’s in good condition—unless I’m invited to do so.
- I will not pretend that the diners are my friends and join in their conversations.
- I will not pour a second bottle of the same wine into glasses until the host has first tasted it and approved.
- I will give advice on food pairings only if I am asked.
- I will remember that there is always someone who knows more about a given wine than I do.
If your sommelier lives by these guidelines, you will have a pleasurable dining experience.