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The Real Poop

Margin.

Not margarine, as in butter. But "Margin," and we're capitalizing it here because it's SO important. 

That's margin as in "profit margin." Margin is the money the restaurant gets for selling a bottle of wine, less what that bottle cost them. The word "cost" is a loaded one as there are lots of costs beyond just the bottle (and the wine inside of it). But at its most basic level, selling wine is a really high margin activity for the restaurant selling it. (That is, they make money selling over-priced…er, um…high-priced wine.)

And that's your job, basically. As a sommelier, you sell wine.

Why do you (why does anyone) need a sommelier? Well, in theory, to help them choose just the right wine. But in practice, the sommelier is a marketing tool on the part of the restaurant, and they perform a few key functions:

• The sommelier really helps wanna-be-sophisticates feel less guilty about spending a hundred bucks on a bottle of wine (and wine is just rented, you realize; not bought)

• The sommelier gives the restaurant a kleeassy vibe and not in a Long Islandy way—a low-key sommelier who actually knows her shizzel adds a lot to the overall ambience of the restaurant…especially if she doesn’t use the word "shizzel" while giving her spiel

• The sommelier's core job is to really juice (grape juice?) the revenues the restaurant collects from the wine sold

The talented sommelier who knows how to sell, sell, sell, can make a meal go from forgettable to truly special. And every now and then a sommelier will actually start a relationship with a table that then "adopts" a recommended wine as something they drink regularly, and a little piece of that sommelier finds a permanent-ish home in their garage wine fridge.

For better or worse, this modest-paying job requires extensive education, and the competition is fierce. "Everyone" wants to be a sommelier; for those who like to drink wine, it is more like a fetish than a sport or a skill or, even just something at its base, pleasurable—like eating a good meal.

So is this you? You may not actually realize it is until you’re older, because of course you are NOT YET DRINKING WINE. But keep it in mind—once you break the age barrier, if you find that you have a passion for the stuff, and you discover you have a sophisticated palate (try taking it to the opera once a month), becoming a sommelier can be a nice gig. It’s also a good way to acquire a reputation of sounding snooty without a British accent.

Kind of, Sort of, Semi-Related Careers:

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