Somm test

For most of us in the kitchen our wine knowledge is limited. I focused mainly on just the food for most of my time in the kitchen until the opportunity arose for me to apply to the somm program we have here at the hotel. Every year people people apply, your application is reivewed by the f&b director and then you have an interview with f&b execs to see if you are a good fit for the program. They usually accept around 10 people each year. There is no extra money, it's for people who want to learn about wine and they do it on their own time. We would have a class once a week for 6 months with two blind tastings per class to try and prepare us for the test. You could only miss two classes, any more than that and you are dropped from the program. Our instructors ranged from current GMs of other restaurants on property, our f&b director and assistant director, local master somms, and some very knowledgeable servers from some of our restaurants. They recommended about an hour of study everyday from maps, to vinification, viticulture, terroir, spirits, water and tea service, sake, france, france, france, and vocabulary.
This was by far one of the most challenging classes I have ever been through. Trying to sift through tons of information, you can focus on one area for days and still come away feeling like you don't know it. The other aspect of the class besides all the book work was the tasting. Refining your palate, being able to pick up slight hint of vanilla, or toast, or pickle barrel on the nose to help you determine the origin of the wine.
After all our classes we had a two day intensive session with 5 master somms. 8 hours each day, 16 blind tastings a day and when your getting grilled by a master somm in front of 80 other food and beverage professionals you want to have all your senses in tact. There is a step by step process to reach your conclusion on the wine's origin. From looking, smelling, and tasting the wine it is possible to figure out if it is old world or new world, the country of origin, the region within the country, grape varietal, and the age. After all two days of master somms throwing tons of info at you there is an 80 question test covering all aspects of wine from vine to proper service standards. After this experience I have a better understanding and appreciation for our somms and what they do as well as for wine in general.
This was all done in preparation for the introductory sommelier class, after this it is reccomended that you have another two years of training before you go for your certified sommelier. Granted some people move along faster. After that there is an advanced sommelier test, then on to master somm after years of training and coaching. Wine is an integral part of our industry. As chefs we need to understand it, be able to pair it, and appreciate the process. Having that appreciation of wine and the steps taken to produce it is no different from having respect for the products we cook with and where they come from. The wine compliments the food and vice versa.


  1. It still amazes me that any one person(master sommelies,masters of wine etc..) can retain as much information as these people. I was in the same somm class at southern... great job on the test by the way. Anyways i just found this blog and wanted to say hello.

  2. I can't imagine how much time and research these master somms have put in. Not just the book knowledge but their sense of smell is off the charts. Not everyone can do what they do. They have a gift being that in tune with their scent memory. I walked around my kitchen for six months picking up everything I could find and smelling it over and over again so I would be able to recognize strawberry, citrus, plum, jam, truffles, ect... After everything I've studied and tried on a scale of 1-10 on wine knowledge I still feel I'm only somewhere around the 2 range. You could spend your entire life doing this, the amount of wine, regions and methods out there is crazy.