Wine waiters in waiting

We are witnessing a sommelier boom. They used to be known as wine waiters, but the profession has blossomed into a full-blown status thing, and never have there been more sommeliers working in restaurants, nor such a demand for their services.

Hundreds of educational courses are currently offered for a profession that, 15 years ago, was a minority offshoot of the maître's job. It cannot be long before national television starts broadcasting shows like in America, where sommeliers compete against each other in blind tastings and other such nonsense.

The recent Netflix film, Somms, was a big hit in the USA, and as a result sommeliers rocketed to the top of popularity lists in the same way as chefs did a decade before. A chef in the documentary states: "Somms are the new celebrities in our industry."

Also becoming obvious is that being a sommelier is not much fun. The four real-life stars of Somms have all left the profession since the film was released.

In the USA a top sommelier seldom earns more than 150,000 euros a year. The working hours are not family-friendly, since a sommelier always has to stay until the last customer has ordered their final drink, and promotion prospects are virtually nil within the restaurant. The only route to betterment is moving to another position elsewhere. And how long do they want to stay in the job?

A retired wine waiter (not referred to as a sommelier back then) from one of Marbella's best-known (but not best) locations, who I see regularly in a local café, has nothing to show for more than two decades of endless hours on his feet except some fine varicose veins - and quite a decent pension one supposes. His knowledge of wine is and always was zero.

Anyone considering going into the profession these days must take into account that less wine is being drunk. Meals are often accompanied by cocktails, soft drinks, beer and unusual items like sake. Although the sommelier is the current favourite, in ten years' time the view from the tastevin may not be so rosy.