Nowadays, sommeliers must be knowledgeable about more than the wines they serve—they also have to be on the cutting edge of technology. While technology can often be seen as a hindrance in service and hospitality, it can actually build communities, allow consumers to be in-the-know, and even introduce sommeliers to new information.
At our most recent Off the Vine panel, we spoke with two graduates of our Intensive Sommelier Training program, Anna-Christina Cabrales (Certified Sommelier—General Manager & Wine Director of Morrell Wine Bar) and Jerry Cox (Advanced Sommelier—Sommelier at Le Coucou), to understand how technology impacts sommeliers in their role as ambassadors of hospitality—on restaurant floors, behind the bar, in wine shops and more. Moderated by Nikki Palladino, ICC’s Wine Coordinator, we dove into how sommeliers must adapt to take service beyond the bottle.
Below, check out what our panelists shared about the benefits, drawbacks and learning curves of incorporating new technology into service!
There's Always A New Tool
Picture this: you finally open a bottle of wine that you’ve been saving, but you have to enjoy it in one sitting. Sure, you could try to re-cork it, or put a stopper into the bottle. However, now that you’ve introduced oxygen to the bottle, you know it won’t be the same. Gone are those days thanks to the ever-evolving world of wine gadgets.
If you work in restaurants, are studying for your Court of Master Sommelier Exams, or just want a single glass of wine, you need to know about Coravin. Coravin is changing the way that the world drinks wine. They are the world’s first wine technology company, and their system allows you to pour wine without removing the cork and introducing oxygen into the bottle. This allows you to prolong the life of a bottle and keep your wine fresher, longer. Sommeliers Cabrales and Cox both use Coravin at home and in their restaurants. While they agree that it isn’t ideal for delicate vintages and aromatic varietals like Rieslings, it’s perfect for bold, young wines and does not compromise the integrity of the bottle. Try it for yourself and see what you think!
New Networks And Communities Are Built Daily
It’s no secret that the world of social media is prevalent in our daily lives. Every day, stories and experiences are shared with the world, creating long lasting memories and communities. This also holds true for the world of wine.
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It was so wonderful being at @iccedu again last night. Thank you for the opportunity to share my story and other nuggets with the new class. Please stay in touch and know that I’m here for you should you need anything. Wishing you all the best! #iccalumni #icc #sommelier #talk #offthevine #education #givingback #blastfromthepast #warstories #winelover
When Cabrales first started her Instagram account, she wasn’t expecting anything to come of it and was simply commemorating the amazing wines that she gets to taste. Now, she has built a community of over 6,000 followers that love to see the wine that she’s pouring. She doesn’t provide tasting notes in her captions as she believes you must taste a wine on various occasions before you’re able to understand its complexity. Cabrales also shared that social media is a great way to meet collectors and learn from other wine lovers around the world!
The Customer's Experience Is Always First
At the end of the day, sommeliers are on the front lines of hospitality and are there to elevate the customer experience. Sommeliers have the opportunity to make a guest’s evening more memorable and provide a lasting impression. But, technology is changing the way that sommeliers provide these experiences to their guests.
Vivino is one of the apps changing the industry all together—especially the way customers do, and don’t interact with sommeliers. This popular app is used by millions around the world to rate bottles of wine, profiling over 100,000 wines on the app. It was designed for wine lovers with little knowledge of wine to help them feel more informed. It recognizes labels and names of wines, even on a wine list, and tells the consumer what people are saying about the wine, average prices, and more.
Contrary to popular belief, wine apps are not totally icing out the sommelier from a diner’s experience. In fact, customers are more excited and educated about wine than ever before. Now, when Cabrales or Cox approach a table to provide recommendations on their wine list, customers often have the Vivino app pulled up on their phones to make their selection for them. While this can be a tricky situation to navigate, both of our experts agree—it’s best to be on the customer’s side. Use the app as a positive conversational tool to gain the customer’s trust and show them that a sommelier is there to recommend the best wine for their needs.