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Definition of a good sommelier as per sommeliers


Here’s what makes a good sommelier as per other sommeliers

We chat with some of the top sommeliers on what are the qualities of a good sommelier. Here is what they have to say.

Tiffany Tobey, Wine Director at Tower Club of Dallas, Dallas Texas:

Knowledge and people skills are the first 2 things I will analyze. I feel a good Sommelier has a breadth of knowledge and the ability to share that with guests without being condescending or unrelatable. When I was first getting into the wine world a high percentage of Sommeliers I encountered would make me feel so small when asking questions about wine, so it is important to me, as a Sommelier, and, as a Wine Director that hire my staff. Header image: Tiffany Tobey

Thomas Brenner, Sommelier and Beverage Manager at Palo Alto Hills Golf & Country Club, San Jose California:

A good Sommelier is transparent, honest, eager to please, loyal, timely, polite, educated, and has the guest's best interest in mind while prioritizing what is of the highest benefit to the company that employs them.

Hristian ILIEV, Head Sommelier at Carbone, Las Vegas:

Passionate about wine and hospitality! Honest and humble! Outspoken and confident, but also eager to learn! Someone with great social skills, who is comfortable being "on the stage"! Because we put on a show for our guests every single night!

A great sommelier can put their tastes aside, listen, and be able to gain guest's trust!

Karla Poeschel, Head Sommelier at Harlo Steakhouse, Las Vegas:

The most important thing to look for in a sommelier, and I can't stress this enough, is a humble attitude and an openness about what one does not know. I'm not saying that if you have those things, you will get hired, but without those things, you are in for an uphill battle. A good sommelier shows attentiveness to the well-being of the program, shows a genuine interest in the hospitality aspect of their role (even if it doesn't always involve wine), and takes the initiative to build the team up. The sommelier should be meticulous, genuine, and steady in their approach to all day-to-day operations.

Anibal Calcagno, Head Sommelier at Anto Korean Steakhouse, New York:

Anyone can recommend and sell expensive wines.  The sommelier provides an unforgettable experience. Wine knowledge is very important, and you have to keep your ego in check. Does this applicant have a server's heart and the hospitality gene?

John Maraffa, Corporate Beverage Manager, Morton's The Steakhouse | Strip House Steakhouse & Cocktail Lounge | Morton's Grille, Chicago:

A good sommelier is someone who is organized and knowledgeable but can relate to and speak with guests. If you can't create a relationship with the guest, you're going to have a hard time selling them

Paul Solomon, General Manager at Vistro Prime, Hinsdale Illinois:

I believe that a good sommelier views their role as one who is first and foremost a servant and is at the disposal of whatever will make service effective. If the sommelier is needed to bus tables, they will jump in. If they are needed to help polish glassware, they will assist. When a guest has questions about wine, they will work to have an authentic encounter with that guest to help them find something they will enjoy.

Jeffrey Van Ham, Sommelier at Lettuce Entertain You Restaurants, Chicago:

A good sommelier must remember they are a part of the support staff there to assist the server. You must also be humble and approachable. We are there to sell but not to take the guests to prices they can not afford. We need to remain neutral about our own opinions and do what is best for the guest. 

Michael Robinson, Sommelier at Adalina Chicago: 

When looking for a sommelier to work with, I pursue someone with a wonderful personality, knowledge, experience, humbleness, a drive to be better every day, along a calm and collected demeanor.  You can always teach the technical aspects of wine but finding someone that has a true passion and love for wine can be a little more difficult.  As soon as someone comes around with these traits, I enjoy being around them and becoming better myself through our interactions and the sharing of our trade.

Sutton McElroy, Director of Staff Education, Bartender, Supervisor at Cadet, Chicago:

To me, a good Sommelier is someone who can create approachability for others in the world of wine. While wine expertise and knowledge are important, what matters is the way we utilize these things and share them with the world. Wine is a piece of history, an expression of tradition and family lineage, a small capture of a moment in time. Being able to paint that picture for others while sharing your passion with the world is what makes you a standout Sommelier. When hiring a Sommelier, I look for authenticity and humbleness. We can help explain the gift of wine to the world.

Header image: TIFFANY TOBEY