How is the role of the sommelier (re)defined in contemporary times?
Wine is doubtlessly a product that arouses today interest as it is associated with the notions of complexity, mystery and luxury. As such, the sommelier seems to be very representative of these conceptions. His expertise as well as his role within gastronomic restaurants crystallize both fascination and curiosity. If the topic of wine has been largely written about (the sales, the marketing strategies, the consumer’s behaviour, the bottle labels…), few researches focus on the profession of the sommelier only, who he is, what he does, what he aims at. That is why the decision has been made in this master thesis to give pride of place to the sommelier whose role is crucial in the world of wine, as he is the liaison between the wine-making process and the consumer. Hence the following research question: How is the role of the sommelier (re)defined in contemporary times? The idea behind the notion of “contemporary times” was to entail the concepts of digitization, globalization and experience economy. Indeed, since digitization has affected the economy in multiple ways and brought about a lot of changes as well in the wine industry (in the sales and speculation for instance), the question was to know whether the sommelier had been affected and in which way. A strong emphasis has been made on the rise of amateurs on the social media and the impacts this could have on the sommelier profession. However, the findings overthrew the expectations, showing that the sommelier is part of a whole experience of tastes and enjoyment, anchored in a reality and in the present, working in a close relationship with particular meals and flavours. As such, he is today little impacted by digitization and by the social media. Indeed, if theoretical information is far more accessible to anyone, and if the consumers may be more informed, this latter is (1) not necessarily educated in terms of tastes and (2) most of the time trusts the sommelier’s and rely on his advice as he is regarded as the wine expert. Also, the sommelier relies on his palate only and is little influenced on what can be said about such or such wine. As such, he is less a trend follower than a newness introducer. Expectations about globalization and demand for New World wines have been as well overthrown. The results showed that demand for French wines remain very strong in France both from the French and non-French consumers. Finally, the interviews brought up multiple new insights, the three main being: (1) the qualities of the sommelier, that turned out to largely exceed the mere knowledge in wine with a strong emphasis on the relationship to the client, (2) the core idea of experience and (3) the evolutions of the sommelier over the years as well as the consumers’ habits.
|Keywords||Cultural Economics, Cultural Entrepreneurship, wine, sommelier, digitization, social media, expert, globalization, experience|
|Thesis Advisor||Filip Vermeylen|
|Series||Cultural Economics and Entrepreneurship , Master Arts, Culture & Society|
Raphaëlle Boyer. (2018, June 21). How is the role of the sommelier (re)defined in contemporary times?. Master Arts, Culture & Society. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/2105/44216