A sommelier is a trained wine professional who has undertaken years of training to become an expert in the field of wine tasting, appreciation, and food pairing.
Sommeliers are passionate about their role of counselling people on wine - to them, wine is all-consuming and in order to effectively assess a wine they need years of practice to hone their skills.
Best Sommelier of the World 2019, Marc Almert from Germany, started tasting wine as a boy and wine became his daily discipline - observing the colour, the viscosity, the bouquet, the taste, the history, the terrior and so on. If I had been in Marc's shoes at that early stage of my life, I might have ended up a worse pisspot than I am now!
So, what skills and talents do sommeliers have that us mere mortals can only dream of?
They perceive different characters from smell to taste
They may pick up a wine glass and smell ‘peach’, but then taste it and get ‘lemon’ - this is not surprising as there are hundreds, if not thousands, of different flavour compounds in any given glass of wine
When they first start honing in on flavours, it can be a challenge to differentiate them, but sometimes they just ‘get’ them. This is the first sign that they might be on to something – they look for the difference!
Accurate palate memory
Another key factor to tasting wine accurately is the ability to catalogue flavours and recall them immediately. This is known as a palate memory. All of us have this to some degree – have you ever eaten something an instantly been transported back to a childhood memory? – but some of us are just GOOD at it.
We know exactly what guava, mango and melon smell like, and we can differentiate between them.
They are often 'supertasters'
Science diferentiates us all into 3 categories when it comes to taste:
• Non-taster: 25% of people
• Average taster: 50% of people
• Super taster: 25% of people
Category 1 people find it challenging to identify flavours, Category 2 people find it relatively easy and Category 3 people are highly sensitive to flavours.
Most intense are the bitter flavours for these ‘supertasters’, so if you dislike grapefruit juice, black coffee and dark chocolate, you might be one of these special superhumans naturally equipped with a super palate!
They enjoy eating a wide range of things – sweet, dry, rich, lean
Even if you’re not a ‘supertaster’, you can still be endowed with a prodigious palate - some people (well-rounded individuals) have a well-balanced palate that picks up various flavours evenly.
So if you enjoy eating cheese as much as chocolate, or can’t decide between a milkshake and a lemonade, you just might be on track to be a brilliant wine taster!
They experience synaesthesia
Synaesthesia is a "perceptual phenomenon" in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway.
Translation – you can taste colours.
Have you ever smelt a wine and just thought ‘purple’...and the wine turned out to be a Malbec or a Cabernet Sauvignon? That is pitch-perfect synaesthesia.
It’s actually a helpful tool when trying to look for flavours in a wine anyway – smell the glass and think "is this more green or yellow?" – and see where that takes you.
My Sommelier sketch is amateurish at best and he looks uncomfortable -perhaps the guest has inadvertently chosen a "vin ordinaire", had second thoughts, and asks for some advice from the Sommelier who now has the task of breaking the bad news and discreetly suggesting a better wine.
Want to become a sommelier?
Check our your local wine school and start your wine journey. And along the way, why not try some local wines that are true to terroir? It has been said: "Wine is sunlight held together by water" and that is an apt description of the way we at Wild Fire Wines produce wines. Our wines are are "natural" and which accurately reflect the terrior from which they grow.
Peter, Wild Fire Wines