Well, actually, I didn’t know what a sommelier was to begin with, so I wasn’t aware of any co-opting by other industries either. But, I now have been enlightened by this article and this might be a handy thing to know.<2019 “Perhaps you are someone who thinks honey is just honey. Or tea is just tea. Or olive oil is just olive oil. Or water is just water. Or a cigar is just a cigar. Or mustard is just mustard. If so, you’re likely skeptical of a honey sommelier, a tea sommelier, an olive oil sommelier, a water sommelier, a cigar sommelier, or a mustard sommelier. But over the last several years, there’s been a creeping wineification in every realm or gourmet endeavor.
Now in our era of hypercredentialism, there’s almost no sphere of connoisseurship without a knowledgeable, certified taste expert, someone who has completed serious coursework and passed an exam. . . . Wine professionals, unsurprisingly, bristle at the way in which the word ‘sommelier’ has been co-opted by other industries.”—The Week, in an article titled ‘Do you need a hot sauce sommelier?’, 15 March, pages 36-37>
Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary
sommelier (suh-mel-yay’) noun: A waiter in a restaurant who has charge of wines and their service : a wine steward.
Etymology: French, wine steward, butler, from Middle French, court official charged with transportation of supplies, pack animal driver, from Old Provençal saumalier pack animal driver, from sauma pack animal, load of a pack animal, from (assumed) Vulgar Latin sauma packsaddle (whence Medieval Latin sauma), from Late Latin sagma.
First Known Use: 1829
Note: The Oxford English Dictionary, with no frills, simply defines a sommelier as “A wine waiter.” But it is evident that they, as well as Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary and the rest, will soon have to update their definition to the newer expanded meaning it has evidently acquired.
The following quotes are from the Oxford English Dictionary and archived sources:
______________________________<1889 “The ‘sommelier’, or butler, who runs from table to table, laden with bottles, and distributes here and there strange liquids.”—Harper’s Magazine, April, page 698/1>
<1923 “Harold . . . making cryptic signs with his fingers which intimated to the sommelier his urgent need of a cocktail.”—Inevitable Millionaires by E. P. Oppenheim, xiv. page 146>
<1955 “He poured the awkward liquid with the skill of a sommelier.—Beckoning Lady by M. Sllingham, 28 June, v. page 77>
<1974 “An awe-inspiringly stately sommelier and long wine lists . . . can often discourage the sale of wine.”—Times (London), 2 December (Wines & Spirits Supplement), Page iii/2>
<1995 “Mark Spivak is editor of the Florida Wine Bulletin, a monthly wine newsletter reviewing foreign and domestic wines. He is a candidate for Master Sommelier a title held by only 90 people worldwide.”—The Palm Beach Post (Palm Beach, Florida), 5 January, page 184>
<1999 “He suggests taste testing for wait staff, just like wine or food tasting, so that waiters and waitresses can describe flavors. In fact, at one restaurant in New York City, Heartbeat . . . , a tea sommelier . . . guides tea drinkers through their choices.”—The Boston Globe (Boston, Massachusetts), 19 May, page 86>
<2002 “The water sommelier will be ready to go when the $210 million Ritz-Carlton . . . opens on Tuesday . . . In the weeks after Sept. 11, the sommelier service and other indulgences seemed in danger of being lost to the notion that pampering was unpatriotic.”—Daily News (New York, New York), 23 January, page 32>
<2010 “Beckett and Hann acted like hot sauce sommeliers for Ochs, picking the specific brand that would work well in each dish.”—The Cincinnati Enquirer (Cincinnati, Ohio), 28 July, page 19>
<2015 “I never imagined there could be so much involved with learning how to taste honey and left Bologna with new friends, another certificate and a deeper reverence for the skills and training needed to be a honey sommelier.”—Bee Culture – The Magazine of American Beekeeping, 1 January>
<2015 “Tap into your inner sommelier and sip locally made wine, watch demonstrations or taste treats from several vendors.”—The Baltimore Sun (Baltimore, Maryland), 2 January, page T14>
<2016 “Fernando Fernandez, Cuban master of cigar sommeliers, smells a glass of wine during the First Wine Symposium last week in Havana.”—Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois), 8 February, page 1A-10>
<2019 “For the mustard sommelier it’s about explaining why you’d want to pay for real Dijon mustard and not the cheap imitation you find in the supermarket.—The Napa Valley Register (Napa, California), 8 February, page C2>
<2019 “OLIVE OIL SOMMELIER CERTIFICATION COURSE ONE: In this first level, 3-day course, we will examine the history and cultivation of the olive tree and delve into harvest and the methods used in olive oil production. We will taste samples from around the world and learn to recognize olive oil defects and sensory attributes.”—International Culinary Center (New York Campus), May 13-15.”—www.internationalculinarycenter.com/new ... course-one>
<2019 “A two-day tea sommelier certification course (followed by eight weeks of home study) from the International Tea Masters Association costs $1,475 (travel not included). A six-day olive oil sommelier certification at the International Culinary Center in New York costs $2,800 (travel not included). A nine-day water sommelier certification program at the Doemens Academy in Germany costs $2,600 (travel not included).”—Napa Valley Register (Napa, California), 3 February, Page C2>
Ken Greenwald – March 24, 2019