Facts about Sommelier

There are different types of sommeliers in the world of food and drink. The main job of a sommelier is someone very knowledgeable about what drink pairs best with certain foods, especially wine. Depending on the drink and food pairing the meal can turn from okay to tastebud-buzzing goodness. These jobs have post-secondary certificates at continuing education courses that people can earn for career advancements or out of interest.

I won’t be including tasting notes or tips on what pairing goes with what because that’s not the type of list this is. It’s a list to know the different types of sommeliers in the field of food and beverages, and mixology.

Cropped photo of a man pouring a bottle of white wine in glasses. Photo by cottonbro studios on Pexels.

Wine Sommelier

Other names include wine expert and wine steward. They are tasked with recommending wine varieties to guests for meals and events. Their knowledge of wine comes from tasting notes of the wine and can render complex knowledge of different wines and pairings. They are responsible to support bars, restaurants, wineries, retail shops and culinary schools with education, sales and management.

  • know the history of the bottles they recommend
  • maintaining and ordering the wine stock
  • writing the wine list
  • Hosting wine tours and tastings

Further Reading

Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers

International Sommeliers Guild

Wine Butler – How to Become a Sommelier

Two men at a restaurant tasting various beers and ales. Photo by Elevate on Pexels.

Beer Sommelier

Also called a cicerone, beer sommeliers are trained experts in the world of beer. They know about the beer production process, the effects of the raw materials on the aroma and the culture and stylings of beer. Beer sommeliers can help restauranteurs with menu creation and pairing certain beers with foods.

  • Knowledge of beer production, raw materials, aromas, textures, taste, smells, glassware, draught systems, the culture of beer and the history of beer
  • Know the flavour difference between crisp & clean, malty & sweet, dark & roasty, hoppy & bitter, fruity & spicy and sour, tart & funky
  • Beer can vary in colour from dark brown (stout, porter, brown ale), dark red (Irish ale), orange (amber ale, India pale ale) to yellow (hefeweizen, blonde ale, pale lager)
  • Can do tours and tastings at a beer production factory
  • At a restaurant or food establishment, has the responsibility of choosing the beer, purchasing the beer, proper storage, customer service, and educating the staff
  • The largest conventions are in Austria, Germany

Further Reading

Cicerone Certification Program

Prud’homme Beer Certification

The Beer Store – Beer Certification

Sake Sommelier

Sake sommeliers are people who are educated, trained and appreciate the alcoholic Japanese drink sake and the cultural history and impact of the drink. Sake is an alcoholic beverage made of fermented rice polished down to remove the bran. Sake sommeliers learn the history of sake, the ingredients, how to brew it, the five-point serving techniques with cuisines, identification, storage, how to purchase sake, and how to talk about sake and mix it for cocktails.

  • Some sommeliers go to seminars, and tasting events and receive newsletters from the Japanese Sake Shochu Maker Association to continue their education
  • “Sake Samurai”, is an honorary title for people outside of Japan devoted to the history of sake, protecting the legacy and educating people about pairings, culture and production with years of dedication and persistence
  • They learn the influences that winemaking had on the making of sake
  • They are educated in water hardness, sake rice and yeast strains, unique geography, topography-shaped sake making and sake style

Further Reading

Sake Sommelier Academy

Whiskey Sommelier

A whiskey sommelier is similar to a wine sommelier but for whiskey and some other spirits like bourbon and scotch. This sommelier would learn about spirits as a part of their training as a sommelier based on the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers’ educational certification program. The name is based on for-profit schools that only will teach about spirits. A whiskey sommelier is a whiskey professional or whiskey expert. The term whiskey sommelier is not a widely recognized term throughout the whiskey drinking world. The more recognizable term is certified bourbon steward.

  • Most whiskey sommelier courses are available from the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers or an accredited college. Some for-profit schools only teach whiskey appreciation at costly prices
  • A whiskey sommelier not only knows about how to present whiskey in a glass, the correct temperature, and what an ice ball and water do to the drink
A table of tea assortments. Photo by Photo by Milada Vigerova on Pexels.

Further Reading

Council of Whiskey Masters

Whiskey Jug – What is a whiskey sommelier?

Tea Sommelier

Pairs teas with meals. They know different types of teas, herbal blends, an expert in brewing techniques for the proper tea type. Tea sommelier programs are taught by accredited colleges and from for-profit certification courses. They promote the benefits of drinking tea and the culture around tea and herbal blends. Some tea sommeliers could expand their careers by working closely with different types of tea companies that hire tea sommeliers as experts.

  • Must know the difference between the six main types of teas called true teas, (black, white, green, yellow, oolong, pu-erh), in taste and aroma
  • Knowledge of tea cupping, tea cultures, blending teas, colour, taste, smell, food safety and brewing techniques
  • Can travel around the world sampling tea like China, Japan, and India
  • Most work at embassies, hotels, fine dining restaurants or own tearooms
  • Good communication skills are required especially when describing flavours and sensations

Further Reading

Tea and Herbal Association of Canada

TAC Tea Sommelier Certification Program

Academy of Tea

Water Sommelier

Water sommeliers are just like wine sommeliers, but they taste water instead of wine. They sniff, swirl and examine the water for shade differences and taste. They taste for water quality, acidity, salinization, minerality, texture, and study what makes water drinkable. They can also test for clean and drinkable water. The taste of water is dictated by environmental factors like the length of time water had to absorb minerals, light, and the flow of young water vs old. They are not just for restaurants and hotels, they can work for water bottling plants, government systems that procure water, and environmental groups that are looking for greener and smarter ways to collect water.

  • Elements that affect taste are minerals like potassium, calcium, and total dissolved solids
  • Canada has at least 20% of the world’s drinkable water supply but only 7% is renewable
  • Sommeliers study different water types and characteristics to enrich sensory training
  • Most sommeliers study at Doemens Academy in Munich, Germany

Further Reading

Water Sommelier Canada

Eater – How America’s Only Water Sommelier Is Changing the Way People Taste H20

Vice – The Taste of Water, Explained by Water Sommeliers

Coffee Sommelier

A coffee sommelier is a marketing term for master coffee experts. Courses to become a coffee expert are open to hobbyists and restauranteurs out of interest in the subject. They would learn about the history, cultivation and harvesting, the coffee tree, the modern coffee trade, and brewing and roasting processes. People can learn how to be a coffee expert from an accredited college program for continuing education or a for-profit college for a certificate.

  • People studying to be a coffee expert would learn more about the terms “organic” and “fair trade” coffee
  • They would know the difference between growers and roasters when applied to coffee knowledge

Further Reading

Masters of Coffee

Elle – 4 things we learned from a coffee sommelier

Milk Sommelier

This is a new and mostly marketing term based on the wine sommelier. It’s an expert for milk testing. The milk sommeliers would work with milk companies to promote the diversity of milk and the milking process from various dairy farmers. They would check the colour, sniff and taste for quality.

Further reading

Mental Floss – Meet Bas de Groot, the World’s First Milk Sommelier

Great Big Story – Meet the World’s First Milk Sommelier

Banner Credit: Photo by Rachel Claire on Pexels

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