The image of the professional sommelier has long been built on the ideal of experience. Long years of working with wines and service were seen as the sole way to build a peak mix of practice and theory.
Several statistics suggest that this image is changing. Our profession certainly seems to be getting younger. Enrollment figures at sommelier training institutions are up. Graduates from those programs are finding good employment. And the newly minted Best Sommelier in the World, Marc Almert of Germany, is just 28 years young.
The profession has always had a certain nobility and magic to it. That’s not new. So what has changed?
One potential answer is that wine knowledge in the digital age is more readily accessible than ever before. The new generation of ‘digital natives’ has no hesitation in using the internet and other online resources to improve its understanding of wine, especially if it can help them advance professionally.
The improved availability of international wines in all different corners of the world may play a role as well. Grigoriy Chegodaev, newly crowned as Russia’s Best Sommelier, recently declared the Poulsard variety from Jura as among his favorites and listed a Cotes du Jura Pinot Noir as among the wines available from his Russian import business. Such in-depth knowledge of one of France’s lesser known regions might not have been realistic before the age of globalization.
Finally, the various national sommelier associations have clearly been putting a heavy emphasis on attracting the next generation of talent. in his interview for this newsletter, Giuseppe Vaccarini MSM®, president of the ASPI, talks extensively about the new training options available in Italy for young professionals. Furthermore, many ASI member organizations are now offering Junior Best Sommelier competitions — Slovakia and Italy are recent examples among many — giving young wine service professionals the chance to show off their talents in a concrete way. The affirmation they receive — and attention from potential future employers — are invaluable for binding them to the trade.
For the ASI, these developments are both praiseworthy and timely. Like the larger wine market, our profession has plenty of room to grow. We welcome the young talent at work or in training today, and those already dreaming of their future as wine professionals.