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definition of Sommelier

TIP: "Don't Swirl That Splash"
By Gale Herman, Sommelier, ATLAS

The sommelier gives you a splash of wine and you, the host, must smell and taste the wine, with all eyes on you and all conversation halted. This only has to take moment and should not take much more than that. No one is expecting a tasting note from you or to hear what amazing nuances you find. All that fun will come later, if appropriate for your group. Right now, you are to assess that the wine is "sound or clean." A hearty swirl could in fact blow subtle problems off the nose and have them land right on your palate when you take the obligatory sip. However strong or subtle the problem, you want to avoid tasting it. Instead of swirling, simply lift the glass to your nose and take a sniff. If it smells bad you will know it and you will not want to taste that smell! The most common occurrence is a corky wine.


It is a smell of mustiness or damp cardboard. Sometimes, corks are bad and no one is to blame. Technology in winemaking and storage, has made it so that most of us will never have to encounter a "bad" bottle, but if you do, just move on to another one. At ATLAS, we "prime" or rinse every glass with a drop of the wine selected. We therefore have the time to assess the wine before it ever reaches your table. Most restaurants do not take the time to detail stemware and the onus will fall upon you to decide if the wine is sound. Your opinion of the wine is not in question at this time and is another subject matter entirely. If you ever have a doubt, ask for another opinion. The sommelier wants you to enjoy your wine experience and is there to help!

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