NY Times Article on Somm Wine Terms

one more reason to seriously avoid "somms" and restaurants with "somms".
The article is an expose of the callous arrogance most people dislike about the profession. It highlights an obvious attitude that seems to permeate the industry. It's the "I know better than you, and what ever you choose,I will look down at you with disdain and elitist contempt. IMO, this position needs a bit of humility and re-assertion of the value of service. "Somms" have generated an ideal of conceit and dis-regard for for the public they serve. It seems they have been dumbed down as worrisome little mice that twitch their noses at every choice the customer makes with some sort of pathetic euphemism or snide definition.

Im sorry that you chose this field of study and that you have to work in such poor conditions. I wish everyone would drink the wines you so desire. I wish the little cafe you have found employment would have a better stocked cellar of small vineyard Rieslings and grand cru Burgundies but it seems that sometimes a customer will actually want something else occasionally. Im sorry you chose such a un-gratifying career.
This is why I seek out BYOB places and restaurants that offer unique and off-centered wine list with out "somms".
The fact is that not only do I know more than most "somms" about wine, but I certainly know more about my palate. So please dont grant me with your world of BS! I would rather eat a hand blown Riedel.. Mad
Wow, sade58 has had a very different experience with somms than I have. My wife and I have dined in a lot of different restaurants over the 10 years that we have been together so I have probably dealt with 100-200 different "somms" and I have never once had a bad experience. I have never had a somm try to force a bottle on me and while I haven't loved every bottle that has been recommended to me, I have enjoyed a high % of them. I have also discovered new wines from somms. Some that are now my favorite wines.
quote:
Originally posted by billhike:
Looking forward to a few words from GA about the "wine fetchers". Big Grin

I've not dealt with them too often, but have yet to have a "bad" experience. Ultimately, I'm making the choice on what to buy.
Not....going....to....rise....to....that....bait.

All I want from a Somm, the real ones and the vast majority of fake ones, is to open my bottle, don't steal a drink from it, leave it on the table and go away.

You knew I couldn't resist, didn't you. Cool
quote:
Originally posted by sade58:
one more reason to seriously avoid restaurants with "somms". ... Are you serious? You just eliminated every great restaurant I have ever enjoyed.

This is why I seek out BYOB places... I also enjoy BYOB restaurants, but I enjoy great restaurants and 99%+ of them are not BYOB.
quote:
Originally posted by GlennK:
Wow, sade58 has had a very different experience with somms than I have. My wife and I have dined in a lot of different restaurants over the 10 years that we have been together so I have probably dealt with 100-200 different "somms" and I have never once had a bad experience. I have never had a somm try to force a bottle on me and while I haven't loved every bottle that has been recommended to me, I have enjoyed a high % of them. I have also discovered new wines from somms. Some that are now my favorite wines.


Glenn, I'm curious. Under what circumstances do you allow/seek a sommelier to select a wine for you?
quote:
All I want from a Somm, the real ones and the vast majority of fake ones, is to open my bottle, don't steal a drink from it, leave it on the table and go away.



+1 Just stay away from me. I'm also a N.P. I'll pour when I want. Don't rush me through the bottle. That is why they keep filling the glass.
quote:
Originally posted by wine+art:
quote:
Originally posted by GlennK:
Wow, sade58 has had a very different experience with somms than I have. My wife and I have dined in a lot of different restaurants over the 10 years that we have been together so I have probably dealt with 100-200 different "somms" and I have never once had a bad experience. I have never had a somm try to force a bottle on me and while I haven't loved every bottle that has been recommended to me, I have enjoyed a high % of them. I have also discovered new wines from somms. Some that are now my favorite wines.


Glenn, I'm curious. Under what circumstances do you allow/seek a sommelier to select a wine for you?
Oh I do it all the time but it depends on the restaurant. If it’s a restaurant where the “somm” is really just a wine fetcher I don’t seek advice, but when we are at a restaurant with a proper wine program I will more often than not seek their advice on something that I have not tried. I look at going out to a place with a great wine list as a chance to try something new and rarely order something that I have had before. I don’t read much about wine or research wine like I did when I first got into this hobby and to be honest wine is way down on my passions these days after family, food, travel, golf, etc. So going out to restaurants and trying something new is part of my wine education. I have friends that just read and read and read about wine, but don’t drink the wines. My brain doesn’t work like that. I need to pop corks and drink a wine with a meal to start to understand the region.

My favorite part of wine these days is discovering the small producers from more obscure regions and a good somm is very helpful in that situation. For example, a couple of years ago in the south of france a really good somm recommended a 1990 Mas De Daumas Gassac. I had never heard of the wine and at that point did not know much about the Languedoc. The wine was absolutely fantastic and started me down the path of learning more about the region. First time I tried a Domaine de Trevallon wine was again the 1990 and it was Rajat Parr at Michael Mina that recommended it to me. The wine was great and paired perfectly with what I was eating. The first time I had a Dagueneau wine was because of a somm recommendation and just a couple of years ago I was in Vegas and a somm recommended a Littorai pinot to pair with the salmon I ordered. I told him I did not like CA pinot and was thinking of going with a burg but he insisted and said he would take the bottle back if I didn’t like it. Littorai is now one of my favorite producers in the world and is what really started me down the path of exploring CA more than I ever would have otherwise. I have many other examples like that.

Of course there have been some bad bottles but they have really been in the minority and again even though the wine was bad it was still a learning experience. Maybe I have been lucky, but I think as long as you communicate well with the somm and it’s a real somm managing a serious wine program, than they truly want you to have a good experience. Plus I am big into food and wine pairings and a good somm can really nail this with wine I would not have thought of otherwise.
quote:
Originally posted by GlennK:
Plus I am big into food and wine pairings and a good somm can really nail this with wine I would not have thought of otherwise.


Especially if they work closely with the chef and know the ingredients, spicing, perparation etc. This is more easily accomplished with half bottles per diner or if the group is very small and eating similar food.

PH
My normal routine at a place with a nice list is to order a bottle of still water (no ice in the glass), a glass of champagne or a cocktail to enjoy while reviewing the menus, make our food selections, then I’ll start reviewing the wine list to find 4-5 choices or regions that I’m interested in trying and that I think might work with the food and then I seek input from the somm. I tell them my palate preferences, but don’t ask for their preferences. Sometimes I’ll give them some reference bottles that are on the list that I have enjoyed in the past so they have some idea of what I like. This process seems to work most of the time for me.
quote:
Originally posted by GlennK:
My normal routine at a place with a nice list is to order a bottle of still water (no ice in the glass), a glass of champagne or a cocktail to enjoy while reviewing the menus, make our food selections, then I’ll start reviewing the wine list to find 4-5 choices or regions that I’m interested in trying and that I think might work with the food and then I seek input from the somm. I tell them my palate preferences, but don’t ask for their preferences. Sometimes I’ll give them some reference bottles that are on the list that I have enjoyed in the past so they have some idea of what I like. This process seems to work most of the time for me.


Got it, thanks....and never any ice in my water!
I had dinner at Le Crocodile in Vancouver ( thanks Seaquam) and they had so many wines from Alsace I did not know. As soon as I saw their stemware for their wines from Alsace I knew they were serious about the region.

This is the only restaurant outside of Alsace I have ever seen such stemware. I had the somm select each wine for their tasting menu, and I was impressed.
quote:
Originally posted by GlennK:
Wow, sade58 has had a very different experience with somms than I have. My wife and I have dined in a lot of different restaurants over the 10 years that we have been together so I have probably dealt with 100-200 different "somms" and I have never once had a bad experience. I have never had a somm try to force a bottle on me and while I haven't loved every bottle that has been recommended to me, I have enjoyed a high % of them. I have also discovered new wines from somms. Some that are now my favorite wines.


This has been my experience as well.
quote:
Originally posted by Ed Bowers [i.e. FlWino]:
quote:
All I want from a Somm, the real ones and the vast majority of fake ones, is to open my bottle, don't steal a drink from it, leave it on the table and go away.



+1 Just stay away from me. I'm also a N.P. I'll pour when I want. Don't rush me through the bottle. That is why they keep filling the glass.


While I don't agree with your take on sommeliers, I will agree that I absolutely despise it when the waiters(more often than Somms) keeping pouring wine into an already filled glass so as to persuade you to drink faster so you can order another bottle!
quote:
Originally posted by Mimik:
.....I absolutely despise it when the waiters(more often than Somms) keeping pouring wine into an already filled glass so as to persuade you to drink faster so you can order another bottle!


This does not happen when I'm dining. I politely let the server know that we'd prefer to pour our own wine.

PH
quote:
Originally posted by PurpleHaze:
I politely let the server know that we'd prefer to pour our own wine.

PH


Or I signal them when to stop pouring. I have one request from the sommelier(e)/pest- please stay away. I nether want nor need your services.
After the initial pour, I'm a NP, but I have never had any problem with any somm when I have politely asked that they allow me to do the pouring from then on.

It has been my experience that somms are anxious to help a diner choose a wine that is within the budget and will complement the food. I have never had a terrible experience with a somm, and I eat out a lot and being of somewhat advanced age, have been doing so for a long time. In fact I've had more instances where the somm has suggested something else that was either the same price or lower priced and excellent than I've had where the somm tried to upsell me.

As to the terms used, they are some of the same ones we used as servers when I was a waiter in the 70s. Of course, Cougar Juice is a new one on me, but I love it.
Pet peeve; this has never happened with a somm but has happened a few times with regular waiters. Myself or another diner bring an older bottle to a BYO place. The waiter then aggressively opens the bottle shaking it about. Sometimes they get lucky and pull the cork out in one piece, but more often the cork breaks and they have to bring the bottle behind the bar to service it (I would prefer to see everything that's happening to my bottle thank you!). Then worst of all I have had on a few occasions a waiter flip the bottle upside-down to pour out into a decanter. This is usually met my a "whoa whoa, slow down there!" type of response from someone at the table and embarrassment on the part of the waiter.

Of course this has never happened to me at a real top tier establishment, but it has happened at a few decent places. I just can't understand why a manager at even a middle of the road type place that does BYOB wouldn't simply say to their staff; if it's more than 10 years old, be very very careful with it or ask me to help you.
quote:
Originally posted by Wine Canuck:
Pet peeve; this has never happened with a somm but has happened a few times with regular waiters. Myself or another diner bring an older bottle to a BYO place. The waiter then aggressively opens the bottle shaking it about. Sometimes they get lucky and pull the cork out in one piece, but more often the cork breaks and they have to bring the bottle behind the bar to service it (I would prefer to see everything that's happening to my bottle thank you!). Then worst of all I have had on a few occasions a waiter flip the bottle upside-down to pour out into a decanter. This is usually met my a "whoa whoa, slow down there!" type of response from someone at the table and embarrassment on the part of the waiter.

Of course this has never happened to me at a real top tier establishment, but it has happened at a few decent places. I just can't understand why a manager at even a middle of the road type place that does BYOB wouldn't simply say to their staff; if it's more than 10 years old, be very very careful with it or ask me to help you.


Why wouldn't you just handle the opening of the wine yourself? Most of the time when our group does BYO, we let the servers know that we will be very low maintenance as far as wine service is concerned. "Just bring us fresh glasses when we need them, and we'll handle the rest!" 99% of the time, this request is met with a look of relief on the server's part. Win-win.

PH
quote:
Originally posted by Mimik:
I absolutely despise it when the waiters(more often than Somms) keeping pouring wine into an already filled glass so as to persuade you to drink faster so you can order another bottle!
I agree it is annoying if their obvious intent is to try to get you to order more wine. Luckily that hasn’t happened very often to me. Last night was the first time in a long while that a server was pouring a bit heavier than I like (he was not trying to get us to buy more wine but was just heavy handed). We just gave him the wave when he was pouring and it stopped. Pretty simple.
quote:
Originally posted by PurpleHaze:
quote:
Originally posted by Wine Canuck:
Pet peeve; this has never happened with a somm but has happened a few times with regular waiters. Myself or another diner bring an older bottle to a BYO place. The waiter then aggressively opens the bottle shaking it about. Sometimes they get lucky and pull the cork out in one piece, but more often the cork breaks and they have to bring the bottle behind the bar to service it (I would prefer to see everything that's happening to my bottle thank you!). Then worst of all I have had on a few occasions a waiter flip the bottle upside-down to pour out into a decanter. This is usually met my a "whoa whoa, slow down there!" type of response from someone at the table and embarrassment on the part of the waiter.

Of course this has never happened to me at a real top tier establishment, but it has happened at a few decent places. I just can't understand why a manager at even a middle of the road type place that does BYOB wouldn't simply say to their staff; if it's more than 10 years old, be very very careful with it or ask me to help you.


Why wouldn't you just handle the opening of the wine yourself? Most of the time when our group does BYO, we let the servers know that we will be very low maintenance as far as wine service is concerned. "Just bring us fresh glasses when we need them, and we'll handle the rest!" 99% of the time, this request is met with a look of relief on the server's part. Win-win.

PH


heck i bring my own cork screw and funnel as you've seen with teh cockburn 63 ;-)

cna you imagine the instructions i'd have to give for that?
quote:
Originally posted by PurpleHaze:
quote:
Originally posted by Wine Canuck:
Pet peeve; this has never happened with a somm but has happened a few times with regular waiters. Myself or another diner bring an older bottle to a BYO place. The waiter then aggressively opens the bottle shaking it about. Sometimes they get lucky and pull the cork out in one piece, but more often the cork breaks and they have to bring the bottle behind the bar to service it (I would prefer to see everything that's happening to my bottle thank you!). Then worst of all I have had on a few occasions a waiter flip the bottle upside-down to pour out into a decanter. This is usually met my a "whoa whoa, slow down there!" type of response from someone at the table and embarrassment on the part of the waiter.

Of course this has never happened to me at a real top tier establishment, but it has happened at a few decent places. I just can't understand why a manager at even a middle of the road type place that does BYOB wouldn't simply say to their staff; if it's more than 10 years old, be very very careful with it or ask me to help you.


Why wouldn't you just handle the opening of the wine yourself? Most of the time when our group does BYO, we let the servers know that we will be very low maintenance as far as wine service is concerned. "Just bring us fresh glasses when we need them, and we'll handle the rest!" 99% of the time, this request is met with a look of relief on the server's part. Win-win.

PH


Technically it's against the law in Ontario for patrons to open their own wine in a restaurant. Once the waiter opens it, you can pour yourself if you like. Unless you know the staff, that is.

For older bottles that I bring to a restaurant, I will tell the person handling it that there is sediment and to be careful with it (i.e. don't shake it, decant carefully, etc).
quote:
Originally posted by futronic:
Technically it's against the law in Ontario for patrons to open their own wine in a restaurant.


There are similar "laws" down here, too. Easy enough to get around in almost all cases. And, it's often easier to ask for forgiveness than permission....

PH

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