Are you considered a "sommelier" if you serve wine at a restaurant?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

Are you considered a "sommelier" if you serve wine at a restaurant? Or do you have to take classes and be certified to claim the title?

—Taylor, Hays, Kan.

Dear Taylor,

Sommelier is a job title for a restaurant professional that helps you navigate a restaurant’s wine choices and provides wine service, sometimes also called a wine steward. A somm doesn’t just open wine and pour it; they are intimately familiar with the restaurant's wine program and should be able to guide diners in making wine selections and provide additional information about the wines on the list.

At most restaurants, this job title does not require a degree or certification, but there are many formal training programs, the most prestigious of which is the Master Sommelier certification.

Job requirements will vary from restaurant to restaurant, of course, but you’d almost certainly need previous restaurant experience and knowledge of wine. Some learn through rigorous tasting practice or travel. The various professional exams or certifications will show commitment, but they aren't required to be a good sommelier. The best ones I’ve ever met have both a practical and theoretical understanding of wine, and are passionate about what they do.

—Dr. Vinny

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