Written by Julia, French intern here for 3 months, who wanted to talk about ‘sommelier’ and wine, which is a big part of her country’s culture, by explaining what ‘sommelier’ is and interviewing Chef Paul Askew, about TLCW recently hosting with award winning wine suppliers Boutinot, the Introductory Sommelier Certificate Examination.
In France in the Middle Age, the term 'sommelier' described a court official, who was responsible for bringing wine from the vineyard to the court. Nowadays, ‘sommelier’ is someone who works in restaurants as a waiter and needs to know how to match each wine on the wine menu with the various dishes the restaurant serves. Some restaurants also have the sommelier in charge of actual wine cellar stocking and replenishing. Sommeliers are in charge of the interesting wine-serving ritual, involving the showing of the cork, the pouring of the sample, and the remaining wine pouring.
In the service of wine, spirits and other alcoholic beverages, the Master Sommelier Diploma is the ultimate professional credential that anyone can attain world wide. By obtaining this diploma, not only does it ensure that the person receiving it has reached the highest level of proficiency and knowledge that they can attain in their profession, it also reassures the clients to know that they are suggested and taken care of by professionals with a great culture of food and wine.
To become a Master Sommelier, four steps are required to be done. First, you need to get the Introductory Sommelier Certificate, which is a course that is run over two days with the examinations held on the morning of the third day. Once you have passed this first step, you will know all about what makes a good wines and how they are classified. You will also have a basic understanding of other liquors and their composition, as well as showing competences in selling, matching and serving the wines with foods.
Then, you will have to take the Certified Sommelier Certificate. This next step needs to be done within the two years after you have obtained the Introductory Sommelier Certificate. This test is to evaluate your knowledge in wine and taste as well as your service skills. This examination will recognise beverage professionals whose knowledge, skills and demeanour are worthy of the title - Certified Sommelier.
The third step is a five days course, with half of it dedicated to examinations. There is no limit which you have to pass this step, as it is of a significantly higher level than the previous one and needs much thorough studies and preparation, which takes some time to do so. At the end of this step, if successful, you will receive an Advanced Sommelier Certificate. This part focuses on your oral abilities to suggest, sell, and display a sound knowledge in general about the different wines and what food or wish they would compliment best.
Finally, there is the Master Sommelier Diploma, which needs to be done in the next two years after obtaining the Advanced Sommelier Certificate. During this final examination, the participant needs to apply all the knowledge that he or she has accumulated during the previous steps and must exhibit an exemplary standard of both technical and social skills, demonstrating the courtesy and charm of a Master Sommelier.
All in all, it takes around 5 to 10 years and more to become a Master Sommelier, but the effort and perseverance is worth it as you will be rewarded for it and recognised to be at the top of your profession. There is around only 180 Master Sommeliers in the world.
You may also hear about people called Masters of Wine. Masters of wine have the same proficiency and knowledge in wine, food and service, but they also have knowledge about assessing the quality and process of wine making as well as in soil and climate making. They are the ones who buy and identify the wines for the restaurant. There are about 260 people with the title of Master of Wine, and it takes about 10 to 15 years to become one.
Both Master Sommelier and Master of Wine are governed by the same body: the Court of Master Sommeliers.
For many years now, TLCW has been organising the Master Sommeliers events here, as we want to establish a culture of food and wine in Liverpool. The course of Master Sommeliers is a big important event, and by holding it in our restaurant, it not only spreads the name of TLCW but it also helps its reputation while bringing an international experience. Out of the 65 people who came last year, only 25 of them were English. There were people coming from all over the world, from countries such as South Africa, New Zealand, and Belgium. People like Nigel Wilkinson, Master Sommelier, have come to this event. This event puts TLCW as the ambassador of Liverpool, to show that the city has a culture of food and beverages as well. Moreover, through the Master Sommeliers’ events we have organised and the good relationship we keep with our suppliers, we have established a growing relationship that has led us to receive the Court of Master Sommeliers.
This is why TLCW takes very seriously its selection of wine by having five different suppliers because each are great in their category. It gives us a nice range of options according to the type and quality of the year’s wine. Boutinot, for example, with their great professionalism on the quality of wines, is one of our top suppliers. When we are buying wine, we first look at the quality, looking for the smell and taste that will directly speak to us. Then we look at the compatibility, if it will go well with the dishes that are on the menu. For example, a French Burgundy wine goes well with venison, and a white wine such as a Sancerre, Domaine Michel Girard goes well with fish. Even desserts have wines that can compliment them, such as the Chardonnay, ‘Beerenauslese’ Sepp Moser that goes well with strawberries.
Finally, we look at the value for money to ensure that the quality of the wine reflects its price. We pride ourselves in using wine merchants that can provide us with the best quality of wine possible with a nice fruity flavour, compared to the supermarkets, who are not focused on quality but on mass production with wines at reasonable prices for the day to day drinkers who can’t afford great expensive wines.
To create the best food, a culture of wine and how to match each of them with different food is capital. Therefore, we need to train people so that they can provide the best service and give the best advices to the clients who want to enjoy a good meal with a drink that best compliments it. As Monsieur Bernard Vallet would say: “Without good wine, what is good food? Without good food, what is good wine?”