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A sommelier is a person who works with wine, typically assisting patrons of a restaurant in selecting what might be considered an appropriate wine for the type of food they are eating. This type of work is the most common among sommelier jobs, but the skills used to perform this duty can be applied to a number of other kinds of work. Even within the field of restaurants, there are different levels of sommelier jobs. A person may need certification to attain many of these jobs, although the skills required can be obtained through study outside a program.
In a restaurant or hotel, sommelier jobs usually involve helping customers choose a wine for each course of a meal. This is usually done in consultation with the customer, taking into consideration his or her preferences and budget. The selection process is guided by formalized wine knowledge, although each individual sommelier may have personal preferences and slants on wine traditions. A restaurant sommelier must be sure to have a full understanding of all wines available to the customer, as well as of all other items on the menu.
Sommeliers at restaurants are also often responsible for ordering and keeping track of what wines are available, and for making sure appropriate wines are in stock for the food being served. Sometimes, there are multiple sommeliers working at a restaurant, some subordinated to others. Being the head sommelier at a fine restaurant often requires different skills from being a subordinate sommelier, so these may be considered different kinds of jobs.
All sommelier jobs require expertise in wine and extensive knowledge of alcoholic beverages. A sommelier may also find work as a wine critic or other wine-writing positions. Sommeliers are also needed to teach and certify future sommeliers, although this requires additional certification. Being an expert but not performing the sommelier's job is one way of creatively expanding the sommelier's horizons.
People who were trained for sommelier jobs may also find that their skills are useful in purchasing settings. For example, grocery stores that stock wine will typically hire a wine expert to assist customers and give recommendations, though this person will usually not serve wine. Winemakers may also look for people who have worked sommelier jobs to work as salespeople, or even as entry-level winemakers. Experience as a sommelier may prove useful when seeking any job having to do with wine, and becoming a sommelier is one excellent way of becoming involved in the larger wine world.
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