International Sommelier Day: a profession on the rise with new demands

Sommeliers have become key players in the wine industry. Accompanying the development of the market and the changes in consumers, their skills and challenges have become more complex and far exceed sensory analysis and advice in restaurants, bars and wine bars

This Saturday, June 3, International Sommellerie Day is celebrated, commemorating that on that day, in 1969, the Association de la Sommellerie Internationale (ASI) was created in France.

The date is presented as an opportune occasion to analyze the scope and characteristics of a profession that has become a fundamental link in the wine industry and that over time has been mutating, accompanying the development of the market and consumers. , increasingly knowledgeable and demanding information.

Although it is one of the newest professions in our country, historians place the origins of the sommellierie in the 5th century BC, when different towns in Mesopotamia, in the Near East, already had specialists dedicated to the service and wine care.

Until the Escuela Argentina de Sommeliers was founded in 1999, the people who could provide this type of service in Argentina could be counted on the fingers of one hand, but in recent years, following the development of the wine industry, the number has not Stop growing.

However, the profile of the current sommelier is no longer the same as that of those pioneers. If before his task was referred to offering his services in a restaurant, bar or wine bar, today his functions cover the most diverse fields: journalism, consulting, teaching, public relations, participation as a jury in competitions and guide in tastings and private tastings, among many other activities.

“The role of the sommelier has become more hierarchical. There is still a service sommelier, but even he has more responsibilities because he went from being the one who put together the menu or taking care of the cellar to being the one who interacts with the wineries, has negotiation skills, understands product rotation at the point of sale and knows how to put together market strategies, among other skills, among other functions”, says Marisol de la Fuente, who in addition to being an international sommelier is a bartender, teacher and journalist specialized in wines.

Known in the networks as @solsommelier, Marisol is in herself a clear example of the versatility and breadth of scope that the profession has acquired. Currently, he offers online and live courses, is a columnist on the City Channel and on Radio Continental, a Sommelier career teacher, and gives courses and training on the world of wine in consultants, wine bars and private events. In addition, together with the journalist Ariel Torres, he makes the Vinimos wine podcast.

And recently summoned to participate as a jury in the Guarda 14 National Wine Contest, to be held on September 8 in the province of Mendoza.

New functions of the sommeliers

Among the new activities to which sommeliers are summoned today are work side by side with wineries to get the products to consumers, give talks and training in companies, integrate the wine tourism chain in one of the wine regions of the country or act as brand ambassadors and promote wines abroad. In addition, many offer their services independently, as advisers and consultants.

“New development spaces arose beyond the wineries and tastings, the sommelier also has a role as a reference, as a leading key opinion, he is the one who recommends from experience. And for this, other skills are essential, such as efficient communication, and a great knowledge of the market and its players”, observes Marisol de la Fuente.

This evident change in the market and in consumers brought with it a greater demand for knowledge and multiple skills that overlap and intertwine with the skills to taste aromas and flavors.

“The requirements changed because the world changed. Today anyone with their cell phone does a search and gets more information than even a sommelier can give them, but they can also have wrong information. In a service space, it is essential that the sommelier has the ability to listen, to explain, to give the corresponding arguments. They must know how to guide the consumer in an intuitive and convincing way at the same time, all this is new”, underlines the expert.

What are the skills that a sommelier should have?

A solid and permanent training: the professionalization of the sommelier is here to stay and it is not something that can be covered with a simple course.

Handle a clear, direct, simple and transparent language when it comes to connecting with the final consumer.

A great listening capacity to later know how to advise and recommend correctly.

Get to know the local industry, the marketing chain of the product in question, the actors involved and the market niches in order to position known products and/or new launches.

Have a great general culture. Manage knowledge of geography, chemistry and history, knowledge of production processes, communication and marketing.

A good commercial and public relations profile is also a great complement when it comes to giving talks and classes both in the restaurant area and to individuals and companies.

Possess a good base of contacts linked to the industry.

In order to build a “personal brand” that differentiates and enhances the sommelier’s activities, it is vitally important to detect one’s own strengths and rely on the use of different digital tools and social networks to make them known to potential stakeholders.

Published in Forbes AR