Are Wine Enthusiasts Ruining the Sommelier Profession?

I’ve seem some pathetically ridiculous arguments in my life, but this one might just win the prize. Adam Teeter at Winepair argues that people seeking wine certifications with no intention of working in restaurants are ruining the  reputation of restaurant sommeliers:

Much like art in the ’80s where enthusiasts took classes, majored in the medium and yet never held a job in the actual profession, the attraction of wine enthusiasts to attain certification in order to prove their knowledge of wine to their peers is at an all-time high. Yet it seems to come with a fundamental misunderstanding of what it truly means to be a sommelier, and the reinforcement of this trend is slowly eroding the respect we should have for people that work in restaurants, while reinforcing an ever-growing rise in snob wine culture. The idea among the general public of what a sommelier is has been tainted by people with no interest in ever actually serving in the profession, causing the role to be seen as someone more concerned with tasting notes and being able to identify wines blind than facilitating a wonderful experience for the diner. This has ultimately led to a growing distrust for the sommelier — an unfortunate result.

The argument seems to be this.

(1) Many people are seeking wine certifications with no intention of working in restaurants.

(2) Some of these people are competitive snobs interested only in showing what they know

(3) Sommeliers working in restaurants are losing respect.

Therefore, non-professionals seeking wine certification are causing professional sommeliers to lose respect.

What exactly the connection is between premises (2) and (3) we are not told. But here’s an analogy that shows the absurdity of the argument. Countless baseball fans spout statistics galore and pontificate with authority on the relative virtues of players and teams. As far as I know that hasn’t harmed the reputation of professional evaluators of baseball talent.

Teeter’s prejudices are showing. He seems to think that nothing is worth doing unless you’re making money at it. The idea that someone might just be really interested in wine knowledge for its intrinsic  value never enters his comprehension. Are some of these people excessively competitive, insufferable bores? Of course. There are insufferable bores where ever humans congregate.

Teeter is right about one thing. The job of the restaurant sommelier is to serve the needs of diners. And so by the end of the article, he inadvertently reveals the real problem:

Zach Geballe puts it this way: “The single most important part of being a sommelier is facilitating the best experience for the customer possible, not pushing people to an obscure wine you are geeking out on, or proving how much you know. Some people look at the sommelier position as a glamour position, which is elevated above the service industry, and look at being a sommelier as a way to side step actually working your way up on the floor.”

Apparently, some of these insufferable bores work in restaurants. The solution is to not hire them.

Stop complaining about wine enthusiasts who keep the fine wine industry afloat.


  1. So much for other bloggers. You are the voice of reason and understand that enthusiasm is what keeps making great or even good wines possible.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.