How to Get The Most Out of Your Sommelier

How to Get the Most Out of Your Sommelier

Aug 5, 2014

We know that picking the perfect bottle of wine can sometimes be complicated. So to help you make your selection just a bit easier, we’ve asked none other than Kris Margerum, The Director of Wine at Auberge du Soleil, to give us some tips on how to communicate with your sommelier in order to get that perfect bottle of wine for every occasion.

Margerum has been in pursuit of the perfect food and wine pairings at the iconic wine country inn for more than 25 years, during which time he has developed close relationships with the top winemakers of Napa Valley. His wine list currently offers 1,500 selections from a 17,000-bottle cellar and has been awarded Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence for the past five years — so we’d say he’s a pretty reliable source!

Here’s what he has to say:

A good Sommelier needs to be a great listener so that they can best assist you with your wine selections. It is on them to do the best they can, after all, the customer is always right. But sometimes it can be challenging for the Somm to understand what exactly a guest might want.

Here are some helpful tips when communicating with your Sommelier:

  • Inform the Somm what the most important factor is for you when selecting a wine. Perhaps is it the best food pairing, or maybe you are looking for a certain varietal, or maybe you are looking for something new or unique.
  • If you are looking for a food pairing wine, let the Somm know if you are looking for a wine that will match with the entire meal or if you are targeting a particular dish or course.
  • If you are looking for a certain varietal, it is helpful for the guest to talk about wines they have enjoyed in the past. Talk about what you liked or even disliked about those wines. This helps the Somm discern the style of wine you are looking for.
  • If it something new or unique you desire, let the Somm know your level of adventure. Most wine lists have a few wines that are off the beaten path that a Somm would love to turn you on to. Let the Somm know you are willing to take a bit of risk to discover something new.
  • Find a way to communicate your comfort level on price. You can straight out give them a price range or cap, or more subtly, you can point out a couple of wines on the list and mention that you are looking for something in that style. A good Sommelier should be up to the challenge of finding a wine in a style you enjoy and in the price range you are comfortable with.

As somms, we are here to make your dining experience a great one. It is my hope that some of these suggestions are helpful and will enhance your next meal!