The sommelier: who is a sommelier and what do they do? 

You may not have experienced it first-hand, but you have probably seen more than once in films how a specialised waiter approaches diners in a fancy restaurant to offer them a bottle of wine. They are not just a waiter. They are known as sommelier in French, and we are going to explain everything that these professionals do, because it is much more than just properly uncorking a bottle.


Who is a sommelier?

Broadly speaking, a sommelier is an expert in wines, but also in cavas, spirits, aperitifs and any alcoholic beverage offered by a venue. They are in charge of creating the ideal relationship between the consumer, the wines and the dishes on the menu. 
They know the bottles available in the establishment to perfection and advise customers on the best one for the occasion and their chosen dish. They play a very important role because not only do they carry out their duties, but they also bring prestige to the venue. 


What a wine sommelier does?

In addition to being the specialist of the wine cellar and having knowledge of various fields, such as gastronomy, agriculture, oenology and even chemistry, the sommelier has several functions:


—They are in charge of knowing and designing the wine list of the restaurant. So, they must foster a symbiotic relationship with the kitchen, as they need to be familiar with the dishes on the menu to study and advise on the best pairings, and the kitchen must also know the wines in the cellar to present dishes accordingly. 


—It is also important to master the characteristics of the geographical area, local products and, naturally, the different designations of origin. There should always be a local wine on the menu and, of course, local produce will be used in the kitchen, so knowing about it will make it easier to create good pairings. 


—They are in charge of the cellar. Their role is to manage stock. To do so, they must move the wine, as they say in the world of wine. In other words, they must guarantee that there is sufficient stock to satisfy customers while ensuring the wine, a natural product that also ages with time, is consumed before its characteristics change. They must also ensure that the bottles are stored in suitable conditions with regard to humidity, lighting and temperature. 


—They guide the customer through this experience. It’s not all about advising. They must know how to listen and understand the diner. Their preferences and tastes, their mood and attitude, are they open to new experiences, or do they want the same as usual? Do they prefer white wine or rosé wine? They must be an expert on the origin of the wine in question, the grape types, the winery and even the anecdotes to share this knowledge and make the wine shine as it deserves. 


—Another function, perhaps somewhat secondary and often overlooked, is that the sommeliers also act as teachers. In the restaurant, they are in charge of training the rest of the staff on which wines to recommend, how to uncork a bottle, how to handle them, or in which glass to serve each one. Outside big restaurants, they can offer tastings. 



Origin of the sommelier

Lately, with the winelovers' movement hitting hard and with everything that surrounds this world on the rise, it seems that the figure of the sommelier is new and a must in large restaurants, but nothing could be further from the truth. Although in recent years its visibility and good standing has been increasing, this role is by no means new. 
Around the 5th century BC, when Mesopotamian culture was at its peak, there was already evidence of people who specialised in serving wine. The figure evolved over the centuries, and similar models can also be found in Egyptian culture and ancient Greece. The first record of the concept of the sommelier dates back to the 17th century, when they were in charge of this drink, as well as being the keeper of the keys to the cellar.


The wine tasting cup 

Something that differentiates the sommelier from the rest of the staff in the room is the necklace, which may look like a medallion, but it’s actually a small container, known as a wine tasting cup. 
As its French name indicates, the tastevin was used in ancient times to taste the wine. They were usually made of a metal that could reflect the low light of the candle in the darkness of the cellar to see the shades of colour and clearness during the tasting. 
Nowadays, crystal glasses are more appropriate, as they make it easier to distinguish all the shades. So, this wine cup is no longer practical and is still only used as a distinguishing symbol for sommeliers. 



But isn't a sommelier the same as an oenologist?

The answer is simple: No, they are not the same. Although both professions share a passion for wine, the roles are very different. So, what is the difference between an oenologist and a sommelier? The oenologist studies the wine at source, from the soil to the barrel. They participate with their knowledge and their senses in the winemaking process. They work with the winery in production of every type of wine. On the other hand, the role of the sommelier revolves around the end consumer. We could say that they pick up the baton that the oenologist leaves in the cellar to bring to the table the ideal wine for each occasion. 
In short, a sommelier will help you to complement the meal or tasting so that you can enjoy the wine in all its splendour. They will advise you so that the pairing with such an exquisite dish becomes a feast for the palate. However, if all this is too much for you, you can also turn to the team of 15 bodegas and our wine online store and choose one of our wines. Whether you are an expert or not, any option you choose will be a safe bet.