“Sooooo, Are You a Somm?”

Nov 30, 2015 by

“Sooooo, Are You a Somm?”

Sooooo…are you a Somm? After over 30 years of actively working in many facets of the wine industry (winery management, sales, radio personality, wine writer, wine judge, etc), I am being asked this question on an increasingly frequent basis. It seems being a “Somm” has turned into a “thing.”

Frankly, I find this question irritating and am tempted to answer it with the following somewhat snarky replies:

  1. “I’ve been living that life for over 30 years – I have taught hundreds, if not thousands of people how to enjoy wine.”
  2. “Sorry – I was too busy raising my son as a single mom on wine industry wages to be able to afford the time and money it takes for the certification program.”
  3. “I did my restaurant service time already – I do not want to work weekend nights in some high-end restaurant. It would interfere with my musical gigs – I’m a professional musician and my gigs are usually on the weekends.”
  4. “I’m well-versed in domestic wines and very comfortable with the wines of the world, and I work in the California wine industry. I’m not selling European wines, so why should I spend hundreds of hours and hundreds of dollars studying them?”

Granted, since the movie “Somm” came out, it has become almost a household word for wine geek wannabes. For those unfamiliar with the movie – it’s about the rigors and joys of becoming a Master Sommelier. It features a handful of bright, good looking young men, (but no women, why not?) all working towards attaining the ever-elusive Master Sommelier certification. It shows them drinking lots of wine, talking, laughing and stressing out about the exam and it all seems so glamorous and hip.

For those who want to take this arduous vinous path, check out The Court of Master Sommeliers http://www.courtofmastersommeliers.org
and WSET (Wine & Spirits Education Trust) http://www.wsetglobal.com.

Don’t get me wrong – if I sound jealous of these bright, young, upcoming wine stars and the older vintage, well-aged Somms featured in the movie, I’m not. I have friends who have done it, so I’m well aware of what it takes – it’s grueling, expensive work to become a Master Sommelier. That just hasn’t been MY path, but that doesn’t make me any less of a wine professional than someone with an MS or MW after his or her name.

There are many other wine professionals like me out there who have been working away at this profession for many years without those letters after their names. This is not generally a very lucrative industry. In fact, it’s difficult to make a living as a single person living in wine country. We do it for passion – we love the wine, the food, the people and the wine country lifestyle (albeit frugal at times) that we get to live. Do us all a favor and don’t ask. You may get the Spock eyebrow from me and my peers.

 

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2 Comments

  1. Hi… My question is what is your complte definition of a Somm?

  2. I’m pulling this right from the source – the Court of Master Sommeliers. There is no better explanation than this.
    My point is that this level of expertise is not always relevant in the CA wine industry and for me, it wasn’t the path I chose. Much respect to those that do choose this path…
    The Master Sommelier diploma distinguishes a service professional worthy of the title, and is known throughout the hospitality business worldwide. It guarantees to a potential employer that a candidate is among the most qualified in the industry, with outstanding tasting and evaluation skills, wine knowledge and outstanding abilities in service and beverage department management. Many of the finest hotel and restaurant beverage programs have a Master Sommelier at the helm.

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