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December 6, 2006

Self Service

Marc Friederich, once Champion Sommelier of Switzerland, now has a smart eatery in Paarl, South Africa.

In most South African restaurants, you choose your own wine from a printed list or a chalk board. Some places have a wine waiter to help with pronunciation.

Yesterday, Marc told me about his transition from the tight world of European sommeliership to South Africa’s general incomprehension. Imagine telling one of our bankers about your profession (“People pay me to remember wine labels”).

Like all of the other highly trained European specialists hired to add value to South African 5-star restaurants, Marc soon branched out. He added cooking to the repertoire and put up his shingle. At Marc’s you can choose from the list or you can get the boss to tell you the story.

Is the number of sommeliers worldwide growing or falling?

Will the last sommelier in the cellar leave his notes?

Did you know that the original sommeliers were the ‘catering managers’ of the French army who transported food and bottles on packhorse to the scene of the battle?

Posted by graham knox at December 6, 2006 10:12 AM

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It is interesting you talk about sommeliers being (possibly) a dying breed, while affineurs (the cheese kind) also get less and less media hype. I was quite amazed the other day when I picked up from the i, an american commentator stating that 'affinage' or the art of 'affiner' a fromage was merely a quick buck story...to put bluntly, as he did, buy cheap, wait, sell expensive...Did he envisage that the cheese maker has actual time to sell her/his cheese for the time and at the time of consumption? Maybe, simple farm theory can help. To bring it back to matters, as I grew up in the old country, I hated sommeliers (in fact all of us did); for me they persperated pompous meaninglessness, I suppose they still do: you cannot change 850 years of reserved knowlegde.

Posted by: Didier at December 13, 2006 2:26 PM

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