The Sommelier: A Profession in its own Right

Becoming a sommelier just became much more serious… thanks largely to the work of Philip Faure-Brac

Philippe Faure-Brac – Best Sommelier in the World 1992 (and now of the “Bistrot du Sommelier” – Paris) is back at Vinexpo this year animating master classes as well as an importance conference. We asked him how the role of the sommelier is evolving today…

The interest in becoming a sommelier as a career has been continuing to progress over a number of years, and more and more young people are orienting themselves towards this kind of work. As an example, I preside over the “Meilleur Ouvrier de France” competition, which is in its eighth edition. And each time there are more nominees. This year, there are already over a hundred entries for the next competition.

As the new President of the Union de la Sommellerie Française (UDSF), how do you feel about being placed in this position, and what will your role entail?

My aim is to give a true orientation to this trade. I am working on several fronts. The first is that of training; stirring motivation among young people, and at the same time, trying to follow, as best as I can, the different types of training available in France, and around the world. France is a kind of “reference” for the rest of the world in this respect. The second theme is that of communication. Creating an interest comes through getting people to talk about the topic, so I am trying to put in place a number of forms of communication. These include competitions, radio and TV programmes, conferences and so on, as well as social media, raising our profile. The third point is a project I initiated already some time ago with the International Sommeliers’ Association, along with the OIV (International Organisation of Vine & Wine), for an official recognition of the profession of sommelier in its own right. People have been hesitant as to whether it’s a veritable trade or if it’s just a role or a special function. We have been working with the members of the International Sommeliers’ Association – these past years, I have been piloting the project – to obtain a definition, or official recognition of the profession of sommelier around the world. Two steps have been taken so far: an official decree by the OIV in November 2014. Then, as recently as at the beginning of this month, we came to the end of our work in creating a precise charter covering the minimum training required in order to obtain certification as a sommelier. Now, there’s a training programme, fully validated on an international level by the OIV, which defines exactly what a sommelier is, and what he or she has to do to obtain certication.

WINE TASTING IS ON THE ONE HAND A “TECHNICAL” EXERCISE, BUT AT THE SAME TIME IT ENGAGES ONE’S EMOTIONS

At Vinexpo 2017, you will be animating a conference, along with Gabriel Lepousez, on Neuroenologie, when neurosciences come into play with tasting. Please tell us a little more about this and where the idea came from…

Wine tasting is on the one hand a “technical” exercise, but at the same time it engages one’s emotions, and these emotions are translated by a certain number of reactions. The wine itself is not entirely responsible for this. There are many other environmental factors that can play a major role. These include the shape of the bottle, the label, the cork, the shape of the glass, the temperature, the light, and so on. All these factors bring negative and positive influences to the tasting before it’s even started… both conscious and sub-conscious – often the latter. There’s also a cultural element. For the Swiss, a screw cap bottle is quite normal, whereas in France, it’s not. It’s the meeting of neuro-science and oenology.

Another novelty at Vinexpo this year is the International Sommeliers’ Association stand (1-202). What can we find there?

There will be a number of conferences, and I will be running a master class on tasting wines from the Loire Valley, among a number of other master classes that will be held at the stand.


Photo: Philippe Faure-Brac, Best Sommelier in the World 1992, President of the Union de la Sommellerie Française (UDSF)