If you love wine and have lots of time on your hands, you may want to think about becoming a Sommelier. The term, loosely used, refers to an expert who acts as a wine steward, trained to choose, recommend and care for wine.
Wine producing countries have their own associations–the French, for example, have the Union de la Sommellerie Francaise. Their Maitre Sommellelier qualification is awarded after at least 10 years of intense study and experience.
The Italian Sommelier Association is the largest sommelier association in the world, with over 33,000 members. Don’t be fooled into thinking membership is easy, though. The training is rigorous, involving technical tasting and methodology, food and wine pairings, publications and course work. Only those who work in a food and beverage establishment can become sommeliers.
NASA–the North American Sommelier Association–has two levels of acheivement and a variety of learning opportunities.
England’s Court of Master Sommeliers offers 4 levels of study. The highest level, called the Master Sommelier Degree, was introduced in 1969 and by 2013 had 214 members, 135 of them, American. This is the creme de la creme of sommelier degrees. The 2012 movie, Somm, documented the story of 4 sommelier candidates and their extraordinary efforts to gain the designation of Master Sommelier.
IF you want to become a Master Sommelier, check out the websiite at www.mastersommeliers.com. There are courses offered throughout the US, and were even offered in Indianapolis as recently as 2012. Just beware, we are talking about spending the next several years, LOTS of money and repeated failures before gaining this much sought after prize!
Leafing through a modern translation of a medieval household management guide, I learned that King Richard II is reputed to have entertained 10,000 of his subjects daily. His kitchen staff — 2000 cooks and 300 servers — has recorded their weekly requirements: 496 sheep; 70 cattle; 70 calves; 17 hogs; 1,511 goats; 14,900 chickens; 12,390 pigeons; and 1,511 goslings. I found no mention of wine. Or beer or spirits.
The order of service was also strictly defined. The high table for the king and his lords was indeed high, on a raised platform, so all guests and visitors could easily see the ritual of hand washing and the elaborate courses served — each course consisting of twenty dishes. They were served three such courses, each one sampled by a taster before hand to assure no poisoning. Salt was restricted to the high table.
Barons and others of their rank received only half the quantity, knights only a quarter, and all others only an eighth. Those not at the high table sat beneath the salt, considered, we assume, not worth their salt. The best cuts of meat went to the higher tables; for those at the bottom tables, waste meat was baked into an oumble or pastry, hence humble pie.
There are references to drink, but apparently the kitchen staff assumed no responsibility for recording what was drunk or how much. There is an engraving depicting a banquet in Westminster Hall in 1685 which shows the custom of covering every inch of table space with dishes. There is no room left for glasses.
Yet I do not for one moment believe that these grand feasts went without proper drink. There are so many paintings and drawings of licentious feasts and flagons of strong drink in the grasp of enthusiastic revelers that I feel the scribes who recorded the kitchen needs cited above wanted no distractions from attention to their work.
Even today, at least at my high table, I cannot fathom a dinner without wine.
The Monroe County History Center’s February fundraising Gala is always a treat–something to look forward to in the dark, dreary dead of winter. Along with great food, lots of friends, a fun silent auction and an interesting featured speaker (this year, novelist, Michael Koryta,) there is a wonderful sense of everyone working together to celebrate and help preserve the history of Monroe County.
Cook, Inc., has always been generous to the Center and donates their amazing World Headquarters for this event. The Oliver family, also supporters of the MCHC, are now the second generation of the family to help the cause by donating their fabulous wine.
Another fun aspect of the event is the “Wall of Wine,” where the guests pay to pick one or more bottles of wine, based on what they can see of the bottom of the bottles. I got lucky and chose a very good Champagne and a bottle of Gerard Bertrand Chardonnay. Gerard Bertrand was chosen “European Winery of the Year,” in January 2012, by Wine Enthusiast magazine. And, yes, the wine, though not expensive, is a wonderful fruity blend, with floral hints and a touch of hazelnuts.
I’ll definitely be shopping for more of the Bertrand wines, now that I have been introduced to them. Good things come from helping a good cause!« NEWER POSTS | OLDER POSTS »