As you can see from my comments in the letter I wrote to Decanter earlier this year, a real Sommelier wears a certain uniform, and the most important part of that uniform is the apron. Why? Because the apron is also a work tool, meaning it helps us to store our wine opener, pens, matches, wine notes and information about important years, and so on.
Too often unfortunately, the black apron is copied today by chefs and so often guests mistake the Sommelier for the chef. But if you are a certified Master Sommelier or Chief Sommelier and you don’t wear the apron when you work, you might as well just call yourself a “wine seller”.
I want also to mention that a real Sommelier is self taught for the most part, somebody who learns by doing and reading and making and talking with each guest, wine maker, wine owner, wine lover or colleague.
I’D LIKE TO congratulate Jon Bonné on his column (December 2014 issue). His views were very refreshing for a sommelier like me – without certification but having served customers for 22 years. This face-to-face interaction makes me a real sommelier, I believe.
Many of those today who call themselves sommeliers are much more like managers or sales people; few wear an apron or carry a corkscrew, even if they have a Master Sommelier qualification. These are the ‘aura of authority’ sommeliers, as Bonné describes.
This was really a great article which will hopefully resonate with a few of these so-called sommeliers working in their shiny suits. Let’s bring back the real values of the profession.
Harald Wiesmann, head sommelier, The St-Regis Bali Resort, Nusa, Bali
The other aspect of being a good Sommelier is meeting guests every day and finding the best wine possible to give them the utmost pleasure in your restaurant. That doesn’t only mean knowing which wine pairs best with which dish! Add a personal touch by sharing some interesting stories from your own trips to wine regions, or even better to the winery where the wine the guest is enjoying was produced.
Getting an award from a celebrity wine magazine like Decanter or Wine Spectator is a great achievement too. If you really care about your wine list then it should be one of the best, most well known aspects of the restaurant, one which attracts diners as much as the food menu (or sometimes more).
Having said all that, nothing is more important than modesty; don’t show off or be narrow minded about any of the wines you are selling or tasting. It is up to the wine lovers and wine drinkers to decide which wines are good. The goal for me each day is to make my guests happy and to give them an unforgettable experience and to be a teacher to my colleagues. With all this in mind, I wish you great wine with whatever your choice of dish. Have a great time!
Harald Wiesmann, Restaurant Manager of the Asian inspired Haute Cuisine Kayuputi and Chief Sommelier at The St. Regis Bali Resort, has a very interesting career history spanning a number of years with different roles in various countries.
His 42 years of international experience has led Kayuputi to receive prestigious awards from the Wine Spectator Magazine (USA) for six consecutive years since its opening six and a half years ago.