In this introduction, we endeavour to get a clearer idea of what a sommelier is. Can only those who work in a restaurant be considered sommeliers? Can they be found in other working environments? What avenues exist beyond sommeliership? This chapter also presents a new perspective on the etymological origin of the word sommelier, interrogating the assertion that sommelier comes from the 14th century expression conducteur de bêtes de somme, which translates as “the drover of pack animals.” Likewise, this chapter explores the confusion surrounding the figure of the sommelier and the official definition of their task according to the ASI (International Association of Sommeliers). Throughout this volume we seek the opinions of nine renowned sommeliers, asking their comments on the different subjects raised.
This first chapter aims, therefore, to define the roles of the sommelier within the restaurant’s organisational and operational system: what are their responsibilities within the restaurant? What areas do they direct and what role do they play within the restaurant team? What are their daily tasks and how do they occupy themselves during the working day?