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sommeliers tasting a red wineA sommelier (pronounced some-mel-yea) is a wine professional employed by top eateries around the world.

The word itself is derived from old French soumelier, the person in charge of transportation of supplies.

In theory, sommeliers can be kind assistants in choosing and delivering the right wines to your table.

In practice, they can also strike fear into the hearts of restaurant wait staff or guests with an almost superhuman expertise.

What exactly does an expert sommelier do?

In a good restaurant, the sommelier's duties include keeping the wine cellar stocked, and knowing exactly which of the jewels in the racks will make the menu shine.

Sommeliers are also experts in the art of serving wine and, in effect, they are professional wine collectors who gets to share the best of the collection with (hopefully) appreciative restaurant patrons.

Sommeliers do not just pair wine with food. The primary duty of this professional is to provide each guest with hospitality and service, no matter what price range or beverage they prefer. Real masters must will know about beverage service of any kind, right down to choosing which cigars will complement the after-dinner drinks!

The sommelier's job can get complicated

Guests can be both confused and demanding. When these demands override the experience and knowledge of a professional, it may become frustrating for everyone. A good sommelier will listen to what the diner wants, no matter how unclear it may seem, and provide a drink to match the meal and the customer's tastes.

Providing the best wines and beverages on a restaurant budget is not easy, and trying to educate the wait staff and customers can also be a strain. It is a specialized profession, but in return, a sommelier does get paid to spend the day tasting fine wines and, occasionally, providing a new wine experience to a very grateful guest.

According to 2003 data, from the Court of Master Sommeliers, earnings varied widely—from about $28,000 for a sommelier with limited experience to $80,000 to $160,000 for a Master Sommelier.

also see in Wine -> Wine Cellars & Storage | Wine Classes

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More about sommeliers around the Web:

Court of Master Sommeliers - Separate sites for the UK and the US. Both sites use Flash, which means they take a while to load. The US site loads faster and has US jobs and classes, but the general information applies to any country. The UK site is a wait, even at high speed. Go get a glass of wine to sip if you're accessing the Internet through a dial up modem. If you are considering getting certified in the UK, it's worth the wait.

The International Sommelier Guild - Based in Canada, this International group provides training that runs the gamut from the basics to Masters Certification.

Featured Sommeliers - Interviews with many of the top Sommeliers from the United States provide insight into this professional and answer some questions on wine and service.

The Young Sommelier Competition - The Young Sommelier Competition promotes the expertise of the young wine and spirit professional and encourages mastery of wine and spirit knowledge. The Young Sommelier Competition is conducted and administered by the American Chapter of the Court of Master Sommeliers.

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