And You Thought Your Job was Hard!


If you read my last post, you’ll be spared the disappointment right now of learning I don’t frequent restaurants that employ sommeliers. It’s true. When the occasion calls for something a little classier than a Coke or margarita, I keep my drink order to two tried-and-true syllables.

“White zin,” I say, my fingers and toes all crossed under the table or bar as I hope there will be no follow-up questioning or discussion.

The documentary Somm follows four men hoping to earn the title of Master Sommelier. Why? So they can work in elegant restaurants and recommend wines to people slightly more cultured than me, of course. Blindfolded, a Master Sommelier can identify a wine’s year and region and provide some really startling and bizarre descriptions of the tastes. I couldn’t pick my stapler out of a lineup if they blindfolded me at my office.

I just completed my Master’s Degree while working a full-time job, a feat that seems like a stroll in a botanical garden compared to what these hopefuls endure. The obsessive studying, tasting, and spitting is unlike anything I’ve ever known anyone to put himself through, all for a job title. The worst thing I had to do to get my current job was to pee in a cup at a staffing agency.

These guys can take the test only once a year, so failure means back to the notecards and the spit cups. Their wives and girlfriends continue to live their lives in the wings, waiting for their men to pass the lousy test already and start living. And yet, earning the M.S. title does not mean a return to any sort of normalcy. A Master Sommelier, it seems, is somewhat of a celebrity in the wine world. He takes on the massive responsibility of keeping up with the latest wine trends. His colleagues revere him and expect him not only to know the whole wine kit and caboodle but to train new candidates as well.

No wonder they don’t offer that job option at the staffing agency.


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