What is a digital sommelier?
What is a digital sommelier?
Before looking at a digital sommelier, let’s talk a little about what is a sommelier. “Sommelier” is a French word which dates back even before the first la carte restaurants ever opened in Paris in the late 18th century, but it was then associated with wine and cellar management. Sommeliers were, in the past when estate bottling (which only started in the mid-20th century) was uncommon, dealing with negociant barrels for restaurants in Paris. So with this shift towards estate bottled wines, which allowed a much broader selection, and customers being more trustful of corked wine, the sommelier stepped out from the cellar and took its modern shape. But, becoming a sommelier requires a long training and in-depth knowledge of wine and food. The head sommelier is always considered as one of the keys of the “Brigade.” Hence the cost implied limits it to gastronomical restaurants. In other places, the role might be covered by the “maître d’hotel” or the waiters (which is generally when trouble starts).
A digital sommelier, like Wine Picker, is an electronic tool (can be web-based or app-based) which intends to cover the basic functions of a sommelier.
- Wine quality and selections: The sommelier must ensure that the restaurant offers the patrons a wine list that matches the various budget ranges with adequate quality. The sommelier is also in charge of training the rest of the staff by sharing his impressions of a wine during group training.
- Food match: This is one of the key elements when one will match food and wine to enhance the client’s experience. A great sommelier will have in-depth knowledge of all the dishes and developed perfect matching combinations.
- Wine knowledge/history: A sommelier shall be able to pass some history of the wines, including family history, regions along with harvest times, climates, soils and the overall winemaking processes.
But there are two main issues; the first one is that such expertise requires a lot of time to develop and experienced sommeliers are generally not affordable for more casual restaurants with lower margin. The second issue is that restaurants with very high turnover will not allow the sommelier to visit every table.
One of the solutions is to use modern technology to digitalize all or part of the job. Of course, a digital sommelier will not offer as much insight as a real sommelier, but it has a few advantages:
- It’s independent of the restaurant.
- It’s always available and could be on every table.
- Offers necessary food match which covers most of the regular requests.
- Offers instant price discovery and a matching sub-selection of the wine list as a sommelier would do.
- Provides in-depth winemaker and tasting notes that a customer can refer to while or after drinking which will increase knowledge and improve the experience.
- What is a digital sommelier?