Sommeliers, Wine Tasting & Customer Service, what comes first? Part II.
By Margie Tosch
Friday, 30th July 2010
This is part II of a recent week's article, regarding whether or not it is appropriate for a Sommeleier to taste the wine you have ordered prior to pouring it for you.

Not only did I get a lot of responses from you in the survey, but there was also quite a discussion on Facebook!

The readers weighed in like this:

Only 22% believed that is was completely appropriate for the Sommeleir to taste the wine you have ordered (without asking permission or having you invite or ask them to do so).

However, there were those who weighed in with aurgumants for the Somm pre-tasting your wine, and they make some pretty good points:

Steve Mann (Foley Family Wines) stated: "I don't see what the big deal is. First, it's not about the somm knowing the wine, it's about the individiual bottle being served. You can have 11 bottles of spot-on wine from a case, and one bottle is corked. If that corked bottle is served at my table, I'd rather prefer the somm have that taste in his/her mouth than I. One little sip from the tastevin is not going to leave me thirsty, AND it engenders communication with the somm, which I love."

Sandrew Montgomery weighed in: "The Somm should already know the wine, as presumably they are the wine buyer in most cases(or part of the"Committee"), however,Steve is absolutely correct-bottle variation can be huge.Therefore, The Somm is merely making sure it is what both the restaurant bought and the guest is buying.Today, many patrons are more sophisticated enough to pick up on a corked bottle, but what about Brett or some other technically flawed aspect of the wine? That's a big part of why one has a Sommelier in the first place!"

Arnel Salvatierra (CIA Alum and all-around foodie) joined in: "I'm coming to the conversation a little late, but I'd like to weigh in and agree with Steve. The somm tasting the wine is a QUALITY CHECK of the wine and the specific bottle. It's not much different from cooks/chefs tasting the food before it's plated and sent to the guest.
For whatever reason, there seems to be a distrust of sommeliers and an
assumption that the tasting is done for selfish reasons. Just like the chef is tasting the food as a quality check and not because he's hungry, the somm is just looking out for the best interest of the guest and not trying to steal some of your wine.

It really doesn't have anything to do with "already knowing the wine" -- that is already assumed if it's on their wine list. Indeed, if it's a rare, very old, or an expensive bottle of wine, the somm is better qualified (ie experienced) to judge if the bottle is off or flawed. There can be a lot of bottle variation within the same wine/vintage, and there are a host of flaws that may exist in the bottle -- and this becomes more important to judge if the bottle is rare or very expensive.

Some people might feel that it's presumptuous for the somm to feel that he's more qualified to judge the wine than the guest. But he IS, and that's why he's the somm. Just as the properly trained chef is more qualified when it comes to food, and your properly trained doctor is more qualified when it comes to your health and your body, the properly trained somm is more knowledgeable about wine and has more experience detecting flaws/variation in bottles of wine.

When it comes to educating the public about the job and role of the sommelier, I know that there's still a lot of work to be done. I read the article a few days ago, and I really wish that it would have explained the reasons for the practice, and not just raised an inflammatory question.

All good points, and the analogy about the chef tasting the food resonnated with me, as I find it incomprehensible that a chef would send food out with out tasting it. (This of course means that evening, not each and every plate!)

However it brings up the question, even if it's correct and there are good reasons, if the guests perception is unfavorable towards it, then what is right?

Let me know what you think!

To see the full results of the survey, with everyones' comments take the survey! If you have already and want the updated results, shoot me an email. - Margie

So login now at www.WineAndHospitalityJobs.com to get started!? Need assistance? Call me at 707-933-0687

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