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Know your vintages if you hope to raise a glass to new job

Published on Thursday, 03 Mar 2011

A passion for food and wine is a prerequisite for a sommelier.

"A sommelier should be interested and motivated to learn about wining and dining," says Nelson Chow, chairman of the Hong Kong Sommelier Association (HKSA). "Wine is a huge subject. Every bottle has a story.

"You need to be well-versed with different varieties of grapes, know the climate and soil where they are planted, and the vintage year."

A sommelier should be able to answer a customer's questions on the spot, he adds.

And, since a sommelier needs to pair wines with food, knowledge of ingredients and methods of cooking is also necessary, Chow says. The HKSA has set up an accreditation system for sommeliers in Hong Kong that comprises four levels - member, sommelier, senior sommelier and professional sommelier.

Individuals with a year's experience are eligible to join.Chow says HKSA members are usually wine waiters or servers who earn about HK$10,000 a month.

After two years, a wine waiter may become a sommelier, overseeing the purchasing and marketing of wine for the restaurant, and making HK$13,000 to HK$30,000 a month. An HKSA member could acquire sommelier status or a higher designation after passing several written and practical tests.

A senior sommelier can represent Hong Kong in wine competitions, while a professional sommelier can represent the HKSA at international conferences and training sessions.

Chow says an experienced sommelier is mainly responsible for marketing and staff training.

"They should have an understanding of wine purchasing, stock management and marketing," he says, adding that sommeliers can expect bright career prospects, as more people become interested in wine.

"Sommeliers no longer only find jobs at hotels and restaurants. They are also snapped up by the increasing number of wine shops in Hong Kong and mainland winemakers."

Taste for success

  • A sommelier should love food and wine
  • Strong sense of smell, taste and touch is a must
  • A good memory for wine labels, vintages and ingredients

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