There may be no people more venerated in the world of Italian wine than the sommelier. This people are the best of the best when it comes to understanding the qualities that a wine has to offer. Sommeliers undergo extensive training before they’re allowed to qualify for the title and hundreds of people struggle and even fail to attain it.
Those that do manage it gain instant credibility in the world of wine. They’re opinions have great influence, with many looking to them as the opinion formers when it comes to wine. A great sommelier is trusted to know what qualities a wine has to offer because they’ve undergone such extensive training. They should be able to tell you about the grapes used, the wine’s producer, and the foods that pair well with any example of wine that they taste.
In short, a sommelier is somebody who’s considered an expert, particularly when it comes to fine wines. They’re often employed by restaurants to help them to craft wine lists that fit the dishes that the restaurant creates. They’re also often responsible for ensuring that the wine is served in the correct conditions to ensure guests get the most out of it.
Here, we’re going to take a look at some of the most talented and influential sommeliers in the business so that you have a better idea about the people who may be influencing the wine selections at the restaurants you visit.
It would be fair to call Arvid Rosengren the rising star of the sommelier world, particularly after all of the success that he enjoyed in 2016.
Rosengren walked away the winner of the title of World’s Best Sommelier at the Association de la Sommellerie 2016. This is one of two major sommelier competitions, with some of the other sommeliers on this list having made their names in the second competition.
Held in Argentina, the event drew more than 60 sommeliers, all of whom tested their skills against one another in a range of events.
The Swede excelled in all three tests, which included a written exam and a blind taste test. He was also tasked with serving wine to the event’s judges.
Rosengren will hold onto the title until 2019, when the next iteration of the event occurs.
Since his win, he’s spent a lot of time fulfilling a range of media obligations. He’s also often stopped by people who want to test his skills. Naturally, he passes with flying colours every single time. We’ll see if he’s able to defend his crown in 2019, but for now he’s classed as the very best in the world.
Currently, he works as the wine director at Charlie Bird in New York. However, he’s had plenty of offers come his way since his big win.
Sohm is another sommelier who shot to prominence after winning the title of World’s Best Sommelier. However, he did it back in 2008 at the other competition that we mentioned earlier.
Today, he plies his trade as the chief sommelier at the Le Bernardin restaurant in New York, which is a Michelin-starred restaurant.
He also has one of the strongest reputations in the sommeliers’ world and is perhaps one of the most media-friendly sommeliers around. He’s lent his name to a signature corkscrew as well as a range of Zalto glassware. Plus, he has his own wine bar, which is just down the road from the restaurant that he works in.
At the moment, the world of sommeliers is still very much a male-dominated one, which makes it all the more remarkable when a women rises to prominence in the industry.
Madeline Triffon was only the second woman to achieve the designation of Master Sommelier, which she did back in 1987. Today, only 15% of people who hold the same title are women. That’s a marked increase from the 1980s though, which makes Triffon something of a trailblazer among sommeliers.
She worked in the Detroit restaurant scene for much of her career. However, she’s most recently plied her trade with Plum Market. She’s also quick to point to the many doors that opened up for her career-wise after she earned the Master designation.
Jeff Porter differs from the other sommeliers on this list because he made his name through his specialisation.
In particular, his expertise when it comes to Italian wine regions has made him one of the most sought after sommeliers in the United States. In fact, many point to him as the most important buyer of Italian wines in the entire country.
He currently serves as the wine director for a number of prestigious American restaurant groups, including Babbo and Del Posto. He’s also an innovator, as he’s the main many credit with the fairly recent practice of offering rare wines by the glass instead of by the bottle. He uses the Coravin preservation system to make this possible and he’s one of the foremost authorities on Italian wine.
Xavier’s main claim to fame is the fact that he became the youngest person to ever achieve the designation of Master Sommelier. The London-based sommelier earned the designation back in 2002, when he was just 23 years old. While many point to experience as being key with a sommelier, Rousset shows that there’s no denying talent, even when it’s exhibited by someone of a young age.
Rousset parlayed this success into his own restaurant ventures, rather than working as part of someone else’s restaurant. He’s opened several restaurants during his career, including Blandford Comptoir and Texture.
The Final Word
These are just five of the most prominent and impressive sommeliers in the world. There are many more plying their trades in restaurants all over the world.
While we point to these people as the “best”, the truth is that anyone who achieves the Master Sommelier designation deserves recognition. They’re the people to go to when you want the most informed opinion on wine and they’ll continue to influence the industry for decades to come.