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The New Wine Pros

"...a lot of elimination of intimidation is about putting people at ease. My approach is to have fun with wine myself and make it fun for my guests," Rom Toulon tells the San Francisco Chronicle. The 25-year-old Toulon, sommelier at the city's Four Seasons Hotel, typifies the new face and style of wine service. Gone are the days when balding European males bullied diners into drinking vintages they could barely afford. Today's sommelier, hip and accessible, is the product of 21st-century culinary values, a wine lover who invites patrons to share the art of the grape.

Getting into Grapes

Study in American wine country, and you can sample the best of the vintages any restaurant will offer. After all, your job will mean putting together a wine list that intrigues your customers and enhances their dining pleasure.

Whether you get into wine from culinary arts training, or whether you take the hospitality route into the business, you're best advised to school your palate at one of the branches of the Court of Master Sommeliers. Their two-day Introductory Sommelier Course introduces you to blind-tasting technique and qualifies you to take certification courses.

Bringing Diversity to Sommelier Careers

Not only are sommelier positions going to wine lovers in their twenties, these culinary arts jobs are going to women and ethnic minorities, too. American Sommelier Association president Andrew Bell reports a 15% jump in wine class enrollments by minority students intent on finding jobs in wine.

This interest signals a major change in the profession since 1988 when Chuck Furuya, a Hawaiian of Japanese-American descent, became the first minority Master Sommelier in the world. Minority sommeliers haven't minded working their way up, and the San Jose Mercury News writes that many started out bussing tables or bartending.

In 2006, barriers have fallen, so if you're a minority or woman who loves wine, you can aim for a culinary career as a sommelier. If you're interested, wine professionals suggest a server job as the first step on the culinary arts path toward wine service.

Sources

  • Court of Master Sommeliers
  • "New School Sommeliers / They're not snooty anymore," by Linda Murphy. San Francisco Chronicle (CA). Aug 29, 2004.
  • "Sommeliers from All Backgrounds, Heritages Make Up New Face in Wine Service," by Carolyn Jung. San Jose Mercury News (CA). Sep 25, 2002.