What Chefs Wish You Knew About Sommeliers

Wine is an incredible addition to any meal. It's something that can elevate the flavors of your dish and really take your dining experience to the next level. However, many diners who are not too knowledgeable about wine might feel intimidated by a particularly long wine list, or even feel uncertain as to what they should select to pair with their meal. In restaurants that employ a sommelier, that fear should be alleviated. Unfortunately, though, many diners are just as intimidated by the idea of asking a sommelier for help as they are by navigating the list and pairings themselves. 

As Insider reports, one of the primary reasons diners might be tempted to steer clear of the sommelier is simple: price. Many worry the sommelier will simply recommend a pricey wine, forcing them to either accept the suggestion and raise the cost of their meal by an exorbitant amount, or deal with the awkward situation of turning down the sommelier's suggestion due to the cost of the bottle.

However, there's one key thing that chefs wish you knew about sommeliers — you can offer them guidance! Yes, they are there to be a resource and guide you through some potential wine pairings for your meal, but you can absolutely provide them with parameters. Just as you would when asking for a recommendation in a wine shop, you can tell the sommelier roughly how much you're willing to spend, and they'll make their recommendation within that range.

A few tips to navigate your sommelier interaction

Some diners may not be comfortable flat out telling the sommelier the price range they're okay with, or perhaps don't want to do so in front of their dining companions. That's okay, too. Sommeliers are well-trained at picking up all kinds of hints. One tip from Inc. is to discreetly point to a price on the menu and indicate to the sommelier that you are looking at something more akin to that. Your companions may think you mean the type of wine or region, but the sommelier should be able to read between the lines.

Aside from budget, another tip is to communicate as much as you can about your preferences. Even if you know nothing about the particular wines on a list at a restaurant, you can express your preference for the general types of wine you tend to enjoy, or even some of the characteristics (via Joy the Baker). For example, if you prefer fruit-forward reds or very dry whites, share your preferences. They should be able to steer you towards something in the same direction.

Finally, be willing to try their suggestion, even if it's something completely new, such as a grape you've never even heard of (via Wine Cooler Direct). Sommeliers have a level of expertise that most diners simply do not, so with some knowledge of what you're eating and what your preferences are, their suggestion might be something that you will end up absolutely loving.