Caption: Having a sommelier on your side when it comes to wine pairing can make all the difference on a special date. Photo supplied

IF you’ve ever been to a fancy restaurant and been stumped by the extensive wine list, not knowing whether the meal called for a Riesling or Gewürztraminer, you needed a sommelier by your side.

The fairy godmothers of wine, sommeliers wave their magic wand and instantly you have the best possible wine paired to the meal in front of you, taking all the (awkward) guesswork out of ordering a good bottle of wine.

They’re also known to add that special touch to any fine dining occasion – ever seen a guy open a bottle of bubbly with a sword? That’s the sommelier! The word sommelier is actually pronounced ‘sum-ul-yay’, and in French literally means ‘officer in charge of provisions’.

Well, when it comes to a great meal, the only other provision you need is a great glass of wine, so it’s no wonder! Sommeliers are wine professionals and are familiar with pretty much every aspect of wine, from the various types of wine and their production; specific brands and their vintages; how to serve these different wines (including all related wine etiquette); and of course, the best food and wine pairings.

They are also responsible for the wine cellar at their establishments, which includes selecting and purchasing wines, rotating the wines, procuring wine lists, and overseeing the proper training and management of other wine servers within the restaurant. In essence, sommeliers are among the most knowledgeable professionals in the wine industry.

If you’re happy to take the advice of these wine gurus, and sit back and enjoy their suggestions, great! But if you have a thirst for knowledge and fancy being on the other side of the bottle, why not consider a career as a sommelier? You will get to experience the wonders of wine, from the vineyard to the glass; expand your technical knowledge, becoming an expert in your field; and spend your days around the delightful aromas and flavours of the country’s best wines.

More than just knowing your wine from your vinegar, a sommelier also needs a great personality. Ensuring the ease and comfort of patrons at your restaurant through light but engaging conversation, and making recommendations that complement (but don’t confuse) are among the chief goals of an exceptional sommelier. So if you’re a people person, this is definitely the career for you!

In South Africa, the South African Sommelier Association (SASA) is a recognised member of the association de la sommellerie internationale (ASI) in France, and offers formal, internationally recognised sommellerie accreditation. Wine marketing disrupter, Andrew Douglas, says people interested in pursuing careers as sommeliers can begin their journey at Winederland at the TOPS at SPAR Wine Show, 

“The show will explore every facet of wine and our local industry, so it is a great event for people wanting to learn more about working in the sector. There will be dozens of professionals on hand to answer questions and aspirant sommeliers also have the opportunity to begin learning about tastings, as well as the different wine infusions at the Infusion Lab,” says Andrew, who also owns the show.

The Wine Show is Thursday the 8th June to Saturday 10th June at Suncoast Casino this coming week.

Thursday and Friday are between 5pm and 9pm, while the closing show on Saturday opens at 3pm and closes at 9pm .

Win tickets for you and your partner to join us at The TOPS at Spar Wine Show!