“A sumally what? Oh you mean a wine guy?”
~American Fine Restaurant Diners
French people are only good at two things—being snobby, and making wine. They’re also good at being made fun of by Americans, but that’s really us being good at something than anything else. Sure, the French didn’t invent wine, but you can argue they invented fine wine, which is why even the staunchest of Americans allow themselves to order wine by using French terms such as “Pinot Noir” and “Cabernet Sauvignon” and “Franzia with some ice cubes, please.” They even created a profession that consists of knowing every kind of wine and telling people what kind of food goes well with what kind of wine. You might call such a person “a wine guy” or “look at this smug Frenchie fuck” but they are actually called sommeliers, and the process of becoming one is surprisingly exhaustive and difficult as far as “jobs about booze” go.
Sommeliers are experts in all things about wine, including food pairings, service, and descriptions. A sommelier might find themselves in charge of developing wine lists, training staff, and pretty much anything that a restaurant might need done to or with their wine, and becoming one takes months of training and thousands of dollars spent on mandatory classes and tests. It is only for the most dedicated wine aficionados.
Or at least it was. Because apparently, people have gone ahead and become sommeliers for…well, some pretty stupid shit. Here are some sommeliers who are absolutely ridicuolous.
The Dumbest Types of Sommeliers That Actually Exist
Now, it’s not surprising that sommelier programs have sprung up outside the wine world. Obviously, the first thing that comes to mind would be beer—beer is complex enough that a beer sommelier makes sense for some restaurants. Or whiskey and scotch—it takes a fine pallet to really know the right kind of brown liquor to recommend, so it makes sense to have a sommelier tell you that Johnny Walker Blue is overrated and that Pappy Van Winkle is like paying an extremely expensive call girl to pleasure your mouth.
But, unfortunately, this sommelier thing is getting really out of hand. Because while there’s absolutely no reason to have a paid specialist in the following beverages, they somehow exist, and there are classes involved.
A handful of you reading this might actually take offense to the idea of a coffee sommelier being dumb. A very small subset of the population has managed to get super into coffee outside of its general role as “that bitter drug you take in the morning that you kind of have to trick yourself into liking by putting a bunch of sugar or milk into it.” These are the kind of people who pay $50 for a cup of coffee pooped out by some goddamn tree cat. And yes, most people probably have their own preferences between French roast or dark roast or whatever other kinds of roasts there are (we don’t really drink much coffee, we find whiskey wakes us up better). But come on, a coffee sommelier? That sounds desperately hipster as fuck.
And it pretty much is! Look at this page for the Nespresso Coffee Sommelier program. Just read their opening description—“Because of the many parallels between coffe [sic] and wine, it seemed indispensable to match the expertise of gastronomy and wine professionnals [sic] with the expertise of coffee professionnals [sic].” *jerking off motion* This is bullshit, and it’s not even close to the stupidest type of sommelier out there. Because as much as coffee has nothing to do with wine, here’s something that has even less to do with it.
Hot Sauce Sommeliers
If we gave you two attempts to guess where you might find the world’s “first hot sauce sommelier” your first guess would probably be an exaggerated eye roll, and your second guess would be “Brooklyn.” And lo and behold, we have Noah Chaimberg, who quit a corporate job to become a “hot sauce sommelier” because “ugh, this dude sounds like he’s insufferable” is not a viable job title. He turned this “expertise” into a business, Heatonist (get it?), with a store and tasting room in *extremely exaggerated eye roll* Williamsburg. This one at least isn’t an actual title that you can take classes for and get a certificate with, but it is still pretty obnoxious and very dumb.
Naturally, if you want to find a vodka sommelier you’ll end up in fucking Russia. Our former mortal enemies/current Trump besties/future mortal enemies really like to kick back their vodka, because everywhere is cold and the constant howling keeps the sober awake. Specifically, Viktor Korheev has the distinction of being Russia’s one and only Vodka sommelier, which is a pretty silly thing to be a sommelier for considering 95% of vodka is just “neutral burning that you mix with whatever’s in the fridge to make the shaking stop.”
Now, admittedly, in Russia it might make sense to know some practical ways to drink and prepare vodka, like what temperature to keep it, and what horrid pickled food item you should eat as a chaser (in Russia, they call chasers “dinner”). But it probably doesn’t have much use in the States…except for the fact that there are actual advanced sommelier classes that involve vodka expertise! The Russians aren’t invading, they’re already here!
Olive Oil Sommeliers
On one hand, sure, there are stores devoted to olive oil, so it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that there are olive oil sommelier programs out there. But on the other hand, doesn’t that seem like a very sad waste of a livelihood? People who get Olive Oil Sommelier Certified expect to go to parties, say their job is basically “good at olive oils” and have everyone to go “how exotic” and “oh let me grab a bottle from my kitchen to test your expertise.” But what really ends up happening is that they go to parties and soon realize that “I’m an olive oil sommelier” is just another way to say “I’m borderline unemployed but it’s cool, my parents pay my rent.”
Some of you might say, “Hey, there are all sorts of tequila, and some of it is very high end.” To that we say, shut up, tequila sommeliers are stupid, no one actually sips tequila, FAKE NEWS.
Here’s an actual conversation our writers had while researching this article.
A: What about tea sommelier?
B: There’s such thing as a tea sommelier?
A: Yup, apparently it’s all about tea’s history, and knowing the proper steeping techniques and service requirements for various cultures and tea styles.
B: Huh. I mean I guess that kind of makes sense, though. I could see that one being at least somewhat legit. More legit than coffee, at least.
A: The certification course costs $3,250.
B: What? Oh yeah, that’s stupid as shit, put it on the list.
Soft Drinks Sommeliers
Sure, there’s only one soft drink sommelier (who happens to be an award winning regular sommelier) but still, let’s just dwell on the ridiculousness of this. Her name is Kathrine Larsen, and she’s about as pretentious about it as you’d expect, but then again she’s in England so maybe that’s just how normal British people talk. Either way, there’s someone out there who can tell the difference between coke, coke zero, and diet coke in a blind taste test. Granted, you can too, but she gets people to write articles about her because of it.
But none of these are as mind-numbingly stupid as our most absurd type of sommelier.
To listen to America’s only water sommelier talk is like listening to a gentle stream, if a gentle stream was impossibly pretentious and desperate to trick you into thinking his bullshit job is a real thing that you should be impressed by. Martin Riese got his start in “giving picky people a bunch of water to choose from” in Germany in the mid-2000’s, and he has since taken his talents to, where else, Los Angeles, California, where having a water sommelier instead of a wine sommelier is something that actually would be considered “neat” and not “frustratingly unnecessary” like it would be in any other city in America.
And yes, he does water tastings. And yes, he wrote a book about the different flavors of water, and yes this is still regular old H2O we’re talking about here. People in the media describe an experience with a water sommelier as informative, whereas we’ve heard it described in a non-media setting as “he poured five six-ounce glasses of water, explained each one, and stared at me until I finished it.”
Anyway, he makes more money then everyone on our writing staff, so maybe his brand of bullshit is the way to go. Can we call dibs on, like, being Bloody Mary sommeliers? Oh son of a BITCH, that’s taken already? Goddamn it.