What Are the Differences Between a Winemaker and a Sommelier?

There are so many terms we can apply to Italian wine experts that it can all get a little bit confusing.

What do they all mean?

Who do they apply to?

And what are the differences between the various types of experts that exist in the wine industry?

Attempting to answer all of these questions comprehensively in a single article would be impossible. Instead, we’re going to focus on the differences between two types of wine expert.

The winemaker and the sommelier.

What do these people do and what makes them different from one another?

Let’s find out.

The Role of the Winemaker

This is the easiest of the two to define as the name is a dead giveaway of the key role of this particular expert.

A winemaker makes wine.

Winemakers are responsible for producing the many bottles of Italian wine that we offer on our website. The typical winemaker will own land, on which they grow vines that produce the grapes they use to make their wines. They’ll likely be experts in an array of production techniques. They’ll also either be agricultural experts themselves or they’ll build a team of experts around them.

But here is the crucial difference between winemakers and sommeliers.

You do not need to have any formal qualifications to make wine.

This does not mean that formal qualifications do not exist for winemakers. There are many formal causes that teach everything from the history of the industry to the particulars of farming, viticulture, and everything in between. A winemaker has the option to engage in as much, or as little, of this formal education as they want. However, there is nothing stopping you, or anybody else, from buying a vineyard and attempting to make your own wines.

Whether those wines would be of a high enough quality to sell is another matter entirely.

Still, many of today’s winemakers have not undergone formal education.

Many have learned techniques and ideas that have been passed down in their families for generations. Others have purchased a vineyard and then hired people who can handle the particulars of the production process for them. You also have those rare few who teach themselves solely through experimentation, though this is a costly and time-consuming route.

The Role of the Sommelier

The sommelier differs from the winemaker in two key aspects.

The most obvious is that sommeliers do not traditionally make wine. This isn’t to say that a sommelier cannot make wine. There is nothing stopping a sommelier from buying their own vineyard, as we have already established. However, those who assume the role of sommelier aim to become experts in wine itself, rather than in the making of wine.

There is a difference between the two.

Sommeliers focus on understanding the qualities, or lack thereof, in the wines that they consume. They are experts when it comes to picking out specific notes in a bouquet. They understand flavour profiles, ageing, and the many other particulars of enjoying wine at a level that the average person does not. They also have unrivalled understanding of how to pair Italian wines with different types of foods.

In essence, you could call sommeliers the masters of taste.

The winemaker creates the wine.

The sommelier analyses the wine based on expertise that few others have.

And that brings us to another big difference between the two, which is one that we have already touched on.

The need for formal education.

A sommelier develops their knowledge through attending formal courses and schools. As such, it is not possible for a regular person to simply assume the role of sommelier. It is a designation that is awarded only to those who undergo specific training and who pass the various exams required to become a sommelier.

Think of it in the same way as a driving license.

Anybody can learn how to drive. Many will also learn with the aid of a teacher. But only those who pass their driving test can obtain a license to drive.

It works in much the same way with sommeliers.

Anybody can be taught how to appreciate the finer aspects of Italian wine. Some may even develop a high level of expertise in the subject. However, they cannot become sommeliers until they receive a professional certificate.

Incidentally, this certificate can only come from one organisation – The Worldwide Sommelier Association.

This is the group that creates the relevant courses and that ultimately decides to grant the designation of sommelier.

The Motivations of Each Group

So, we come to our final question.

Why would somebody want to be a winemaker or a sommelier?

The answer for the winemaker is simple. For many, the desire to make wine is born from a passion for creating something spectacular. On top of that, making wine can be an extremely lucrative business if you’re capable of making quality wines. So, the motivations here are often to start, or take part in, a business that allows the person to pursue one of their greatest passions.

Passion is also a key aspect of why somebody would choose to become a sommelier. After all, it takes an enormous amount of passion to pass the gruelling course that The Worldwide Sommelier Association sets.

However, the purpose beyond passion is not as immediately obvious until you understand that there is demand for the sommelier’s skills.

That demand typically comes from high-end restaurants.

As mentioned, pairing wines with appropriate foods is among the sommelier’s many talents. High-end restaurants will often hire sommeliers to create their wine lists. Some may even retain an in-house sommelier who can offer advice to patrons on which wines are best served with their choice of dish.

Becoming a sommelier gives you access to several lucrative career opportunities doing something that you’re passionate about.

And that is motivation enough for many.

Of course, you don’t have to be a winemaker or sommelier to enjoy Italian wine. Anybody can appreciate the brilliance inside the bottle. So, why not check our catalogue to see if you can find a wine that suits your tastes today?


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