Sommelier; An Unusual Profession

Edited by- Kiara Lakdawala

During my winter vacations, I would spend most of my afternoons in my grandfather’s wine cellar in Pune, watching him keenly decanting many bottles of wine. Each bottle was labelled neatly with the year it was made and the date it was last decanted on. The bottles sat quiet and tall on wooden shelves some looking purple, clear pink and light green. It seemed like treasure in a dark cellar waiting to meet a wine connoisseur. The aroma of fermented grapes often motivated me to research on the occupation and the career of being a sommelier.

A sommelier is popularly known as a wine steward who is trained and is a knowledgeable wine professional working in fine dining restaurants. This role is more specialised than that of a wine waiter. His job covers areas of wine procurement, wine rotation and expert service to wine consumers, making him the expert to recommend the most suited wine to his customers and enhance interest in the same on an ongoing basis.

As heartily said by Morgan Harris, a sommelier in New York City,

“My proudest, happiest, and most fulfilled moment in my day-to-day work is when a bottle I’ve selected from a humble, farming-focused producer is sold to someone who really enjoys it. I bring two human beings (winemaker and drinker) together who don’t know each other and through this product we are connected and humanized as a species. That to me is what makes a sommelier a worthwhile career.”

A Sommelier is very erudite on cheese as a go-to partner with wine.

Port is a red wine and has long been considered the ideal wine with Stilton, an English blue veined cheese. The reason that Port is paired with blue cheese is because it is sweet and fortified. It is not because it is red! The sweetness provides a perfect foil for the tangy saltiness of blue cheese.

The best cheeses to pair with red wine are hearty ones - semi-firm, firm and aged hard cheese. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Zinfandel, Tempranillo and Sangiovese are a few of the red wines that pair well with aged Gouda, Cheddar, Manchego or Pecorino and other similar cow, goat or sheep milk cheeses.

Creamy Camembert, Brie or other soft, surface ripened cheeses are paired better with white wine. Chardonnay shines with these types of cheeses. Mud House Sauvignon Blanc pairs the best with Sula Dindori Farm Organic Goat Cheese. An interesting trick is to echo flavours. The acidity in the wine and cheese makes it a delightful pairing.

By now, I am sure you would either like to check-in to a restaurant for a glass of wine with a heavenly accompaniment the cheese of your choice or be a part of this interesting career journey of being a sommelier. A sommelier needs a certification from the Court of Master Sommeliers (CMS). Two well-known ones are the Court of Master Sommeliers (CMS) and Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET). The CMS Sommelier program requires a high level of restaurant service expertise which is perfect for someone who is interested in being a restaurant sommelier. The WSET program is at its peak, both at being academic and business oriented. The WSET program is a worldwide certification, which is nice. The cost of this certification ranges from $800 to $3,750 for the course over a period of six months. WSET is a 3 level certification and makes you more proficient in the business aspect of Wine and Wine Tasting as career.

The Court of Master Sommeliers (CMS): the most prestigious organisation in the world for becoming a sommelier.

Being a Sommelier in India- A Sunrise Career!

As of now, the concept of a sommelier is new to most Indians. There are only a few sommeliers which exist in India.

Notable sommeliers are Rajesh Batla of the Taj Palace Hotel in New Delhi and Gaurav Anand, a Master of Wine who writes for the publication, Wines Foray. However, sommeliers are now found in Indian bars and fine dining restaurants. This will greatly improve the taste buds of Indian wine drinkers. Furthermore, more number of people from the Hotel Management side are considering to pursue a Masters in Wine or become a Master Sommelier in India.

A few startups have emerged to strategize exploring new wines for the Indian palate. This seems like a treasure chest yet to be discovered by pairing the Indian palate to unexplored wine brands. We may see startup entrepreneurs conceptualizing the journey of Indian wines from our very own homegrown cellars to our dinner tables.

The future of Indian wine and wine sommeliers is a sunrise industry, though unusual but yet to be unleashed!


Karan likes to write on Career Management and researches unusual careers and occupations which has relevance to India’s Career Map.

#karankaushish #sommelier #professions

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