A spit bucket? At a wine tasting? That’s right; your eyes aren’t deceiving you. Now you may start to think that spitting is such a waste of good wine. But there is a really important reasoning behind this action. So, why do sommeliers spit?
Sommeliers spit to avoid getting drunk! Sommeliers have to taste many types of wine while on the job and need to have a clear mind to discern their flavor. It can be hard to judge a wine when all you feel like doing is dancing on tables.
Let’s dive deeper into this interesting profession and see just what else is involved besides spitting wine.
What Is a Sommelier?
A sommelier is essentially a wine steward, someone who is trained and knowledgeable about wine, usually found in fine restaurants and elsewhere in the hospitality industry. These professionals know which wines their restaurant has on and off the wine list and will help you find the perfect wine for your dinner.
A sommelier’s education is usually accredited through organizations like the WSET (Wine & Spirits Education Trust), MW (Master of Wine), the CMS (Court of Master Sommeliers), and MS (Master Sommelier)
What Are The Responsibilities of a Sommelier?
Sommeliers do the following:
- Form the restaurant’s wine list and program including pricing, purchasing, and sales monitoring
- Train the service staff for wine knowledge
- Manage the inventory of wine, including careful storage and care of wines
- Work with cooking team to find cohesive food and wine pairings
- Speak with patrons to make recommendations and answer any questions
- Sample wines from different producers worldwide
- Select bottles that reflect the price level and quality in line with the budget
What Is the Difference Between a Sommelier and a Master Sommelier?
Just like there are levels of higher education, there are also different certifications and honors in sommelier certification. The Court of Master Sommeliers, the top organization in the wine industry, has four levels of achievement:
The title of Master Sommelier is a recent addition and is only for a specific type of sommelier. This title was granted for the first time in 1969, and the international examination body, the Court of Master Sommeliers (CMS), was only formed in 1977. Now, there are less than 250 people worldwide who have the title of Master Sommelier.
Author Note: The main goal in creating this title around 50 years ago was to improve the standards of wine service in the hospitality industry, with an emphasis on bettering wine and food pairings.
Master Sommelier is now the highest and most prestigious title available to wine professionals around the world. An interesting fact about this court body is that they won’t release any old versions of the final test, so no one really knows what was on it.
All they tell us is that you must be able to “speak with authority on the major wine regions of the world.”
- The region’s history, geography, soil, and climate
- The region’s key towns, villages, and vineyards
- The characteristics of key wines from this region
- Winemaking techniques generally used in the region
- The organoleptic differences between wines from this region
- The ability to identify the wines of that region by only taste
- The region’s top producers and individual styles
- The known vintages from this region from the 1970s to the present
- Region-specific wine terminology
The Final Test
As you can see, there is a lot of work that goes into getting this title. But the most difficult is surely the tasting requirement – in only 25 minutes, you should be able to taste and identify a bunch of different wines and make professional judgments about vintage and provenance.
An example of a test question would be, “Can you recommend a Pinot Noir from 2000 and describe why it would match well with this particular dish?”
To answer this question, you would have to know about recent vintages, the organoleptic attributes of wines that make them good for pairings, and the names of particular styles.
This is a lot of information and proves why many MS candidates do not pass all their tests on their first try, so the pursuit for a Master Sommelier title can be a multiple-year process.
How to Become a Master Sommelier
This three-part exam for the Master Sommelier title is known to demanding. The test was created in 1977 and is considered one of the hardest to pass in the whole world, with a rate of only 10%.
The candidates who do not finish all three sections of the test after a three-year period must start over from zero. Many candidates usually require 2-3 tries to pass the full exam. That explains why there are less than 300 people who have achieved the master sommeliers status.
For this test, you will need all the WSET academic knowledge, but with a particular emphasis on the service (i.e., hospitality) sector.
There are three parts to the master sommelier exam:
- Blind tasting. The individual must identify key attributes of six wines—grapes, region of origin, and vintage year—in just 25 minutes.
- Oral exam. Individuals take an oral exam with two sommelier masters, with a discussion of wine theory for 25 minutes.
- Service portion. The individual practices serving their instructors as mock restaurant guests. Instructors may act as difficult customers to test whether the individuals’ customer service skills are on point.
Becoming a Wine Encyclopedia
Candidates must know the details of every one of the 10,000 wine grape varieties in the world by heart in order to achieve the master sommelier diploma and become certified.
On top of all this, the examination is only by invitation and can only be done after the individual has passed the Introductory Exam, the Certified Exam, and the Advanced Sommelier Exam.
The documentary “Somm” (2012) showcased the four different individuals trying to pass this highly difficult examination. A normal path to the title of Master Sommelier involves advanced academic work of the culinary arts (with an emphasis on intensive wine classes), professional study or certification in the hospitality industry, and at least two years of experience as a sommelier working at a restaurant.
How Much Does a Sommelier Make?
These individuals do a lot of work to achieve their prestigious titles, but just how much do they make? Well, according to the recent salary survey data, the average wine sommelier salary across all the certification levels is $62,000.
But there is a significant variance, especially at the top levels.
How Much Do Level 1 Sommeliers Make?
Author Note: The national average level 1 sommelier salary, according to recent studies, is $55,000. A level 1 sommelier is an individual who passed the Introductory Sommelier Course and Exam. This is only the very beginning of sommelier courses that the CMS offers.
This certification is only entry-level and held by new sommeliers and those who have about 1–3 years of experience in the wine industry.
Certified Sommelier Salary
The average Certified Sommelier salary is $62,000, and this is right at the median salary level of sommeliers. This comes after level 1 CMS certification and is usually held by sommeliers and wine professionals who have around seven years of experience.
Advanced Sommelier Salary
The average Advanced Sommelier salary is $87,000. This puts Advanced Sommeliers in the top 20 percentile of money makes in America, which isn’t too shabby. This is the second to last level of CMS certification and is held by individuals with at least eight years of experience in the wine field.
How Much Does a Master Sommelier Make?
Individuals with a Master Sommelier title make an average salary of $164,000. This is the highest and final sommelier certification from the court. A very large leap from the previous level.
But, it is understandable when you look at how much work must be put in to reach this level. There are just less than 300 individuals in the world who have passed this rigorous three-year examination. Similar to Advanced Sommeliers, Master Sommeliers also have a minimum of 8 years of experience as working wine professionals.
Very often, they have much more due to their talent and hard work.
Career Choices for Sommeliers
As a sommelier, there are many career options open to you!
Author Note: Luxurious restaurants are a major part of a sommelier’s options. The sommelier usually works alongside the chef and the owners to form a suitable variety and quantity of wines available, to pair well the chef’s food and provide an amazing experience for the diners.
Managing the inventory is also a big part of the job, including ordering and receiving bottles along with ensuring they are being stored properly. For the service part, a sommelier walks around recommending a wine that pairs with the diners’ dishes and answering any questions they may have.
Similar to many other factors of culinary education, it’s hard to learn about wine using books. The wine industry is formed on tasting and understanding wines, which require constant, structured learning. This education and training are fundamental and can only be provided by experienced instructors and sommeliers.
Sommeliers can also find many career options within the wine industry itself. Individual winemakers usually hire a sommelier to offer in-house expertise alongside the winemaker’s efforts. Wineries make lots of their income from tours and tastings, so having a trained sommelier to conduct these is a big advantage.
Sommeliers also help sell wine to potential clients, like major wholesalers and individual chefs.
A lot of work goes into working as a sommelier. When you see them spit, it may look ridiculous, but keep in mind that they have been tasting for hours and must stay focused! If you love wine, why don’t you go ahead and try getting a certification? After all, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take! We hope you enjoyed this article on why do Sommeliers spit.
To living a full-bodied life,