Sommeliers, or somms, as the cool people seem to have endeared them (pretty soon we'll just call them "s"), do god's work. For all the lampooning and tasteless jokes lobbed at sommeliers (which I'll be adding to shortly), somms do make the lives of many people flat-out tastier, opening minds and palates worldwide. I rarely meet chefs (whose work is harder, albeit, though it's not a contest) who are into wine the way that most sommeliers are into food. God bless chefs, but it's amazing how many of them I meet who like to open a bottle of The fucking Prisoner with their carefully executed meal, if they even drink wine at all. I'll never forget doing a huge wine dinner with a prettay, prettayy, prettayyy famous chef who has tens of blockbuster restaurants around the world with his name on them, and all he drank during and after the proceedings, even though he had a multitude of local wines at his disposal which he'd surely never seen and wouldn't see again barring a return trip, not to mention being paired with his food...was vodka sodas.
Fuck. Me. I'm sorry (I'm not), but that was disappointing. That's like Elton John coming to your house to play a concert, you setting up a grand piano for him, organizing a big crowd, catering to his every desire, and when he gets there, he asks if you have a ukulele because he wants to play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. I mean, that would still be kinda cool. But you get what I'm saying.
Hit me up in the insta DMs @drunkensommelier and I'll spill on who it was.
As much as I like to keep it loose with food and wine, a well-constructed wine list put together by a thoughtful wine person is entertaining reading material for me. Combing over a densely packed wine boutique turns me into Belle from Beauty & the Beast™ when she's in the library. Only I hang around longer and they never give me a bottle for free. Sometimes when I start sliding around on the rolling step ladder while singing show tunes they even ask me to leave.
However, for all the respect I'm throwing around here, there are some communal personality traits that make sommeliers not only uninteresting to members of the opposite sex, but left untreated, completely undateable altogether.
You might think dating a sommelier who can swirl and twirl their glass and romance you between vines would be fun.
Let's dive in.
1) The Slurping Thing
This is probably the second- or third-grossest thing that sommeliers do, other than waking up with a purple tongue and an untouched, late-night pizza order on the floor next to the sofa where they passed out from too much Fernet Branca™ and spitting long, deep-ruby-coloured strands of tannin saliva into buckets instead of just saving everyone from the sight and calling an Uber™. The slurping thing. The slurping thing is one of those somm reflexes, along with incessant glass swirling and sniffing glasses before wine is poured to see if there's a detectable detergent residue that might tarnish our favourite pet-nat. Here's what happens: the somm orders a bottle to enjoy with their date. The server pours the wine. Since the somm ordered the wine, they're automatically too interested in it. They should have kept it simple and ordered Pinot Grigio so they could pay attention to the love interest, but that would be a waste of an opportunity to geek out on carbonically-macerated Lemberger. Anyway, the server pours a couple glasses and fucks off, and the somm, instead of cheersing and having a drink, does that thing where they cock their head to the side in that annoying way, take a long, overly-discerning smell, make a stupid and judgemental comment to make themselves look smarter than they really are, throw some wine in their mouth, and then suck air in through their lips, making the most obnoxious, slurping noise that should pretty much be called "moisting". Then they pretend it's mouthwash. The date stares in awe, wondering if they should say something or just go to the bathroom and never come back. If it weren't for the tasty Lemberger, they'd probably do both. The worst part is, the somm doesn't even know they're doing this. They'll just wonder why they're left on "read" when they try to set up date #2.
There won't be a date #2.
2) The Face They Make When You Tell Them You Like Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc
This is why it's important for somms to get drunk on commercial wines once in a while: somms need to find more ways to stay in touch with normals like hot Ken from Tinder™ or Barbara the corporate lawyer from Bumble™ who wears the nice pencil skirts and is out of your league but all the decent guys are taken because there are so few of them and the remaining salvageable options are scarce. Listen, I've been in situations where Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc was by far the best imbibe available and let me tell you, it's made life easier having that fond memory of a style of wine that is the butt of jokes within the most elevated and rarified parts of the wine community. Look, there's nothing wrong with knowing the truth. The truth is that Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc is kinda like...kinda like...kinda like that greasy douchebag ordering J. Lohr as if nothing else on the list is any good when he takes his mistress to a steakhouse for a "nice dinner" and then wants to split the bill. But back to the gin & tonics: when a sommelier goes on a date or meets someone pretty, and when the sad but real question that so many people lean upon (I've had longer conversations with people by saying "hey look at those leaves" than by asking them what they do) when it comes to first dates is uttered, and the sommelier says they're into wine, and the normal that they're out with says "oh I love Kim Crawford" (no need to specify: its the Sauvy), the sommelier has no choice but to go lifeless in the face while trying to imagine how they might muster the courage and grace to say "oh, cool" and really sell it.
Goodbye, hot corporate lawyer who wears the nice pencil skirts.
3) They Can't Let It Go
For better or worse, a sommelier is already married to themselves. Leave it to a sommelier to ruin a perfectly wholesome, friendly, family occasion with an "ohhh, do you have anything else to drink?" or an "I know this great minimal-intervention Cab Franc that's only $41 and they only make 7 cases and oh well you can't get it at the BC Liquor Store and oh no that private store probably won't have it but like we got a case at our restaurant and it's been sitting there for 18 months and we still have a few left yeah you should have got something like that for this party because like yeah Villa Teresa Merlot is totally overpowered by barbecue..." like spare me already. As far as I'm concerned, it's on the somm to help mend this reputation by showing up to a family party once in a while with a 24-pack of Molson Canadian™ or their favourite version of The Little Penguin™ just to try to get everyone to stop being so scared of them and become genuinely interested in all the college-of-oenological-knowledge stuff they actually have to offer. You know what? When that bottle of Santa Margherita at your new girlfriend's parents' house is corked to high heaven (¿Why are we still using cork for wines like this?) and you're sitting around the table and Auntie Linda is really suckin' it back and enjoying herself, and you know if you mention it that you're going to cause more sadness and confusion than enlightenment but you still can't help yourself....HELP YOURSELF. If, of course, you want to continue to date and enjoy makeout privileges with your prospective lifemate.
4) Interrupt Each And Every Person's Story and Start A Sentence With "I"
Nobody cares. You just cut someone off. And no, pyrazines was not a good reason to do so. I suppose this has a broader application, too. You know, there's this one wino-somm-type I know who is really bad for this. The sad part is that I wish I felt comfortable enough to even to engage in a conversation with her. She didn't even have to cut me off. She'd just cut off the silence between us when I was perfectly happy not conversing during our shift. And she'd tell me about this winery that was just so unbelievable that she went to on vacation. And I really didn't care, because she had like, really mediocre taste in addition to over-sharing-syndrome. Except finally when I found this winery on my own, I totally fell in love with it and it was awesome and if she hadn't tried shoving it down my throat I could have found it and enjoyed it a lot sooner but because she kept interrupting perfectly good silence with "I did this" and "I did that" which ultimately leads to "You should do this" and "You should do that", I was severely deterred from even looking at a bottle when I'd see it in the store or on a wine list. And that was just a disservice to the winery itself. As for dating? Why would you want to date anyone who interrupts you all the time? Ask Kimmy K.
5) Their Memories Are So Good It's Annoying
Yeah. You forgot. Well, they didn't. At every inopportune moment that your partner could potentially open up their filing cabinet on everything you ever did and remind you of it at the worst possible moment, a sommelier will do it. It's wired into their poor little heads. They train themselves to remember the silliest little details that are seemingly so insignificant to you while joyfully getting a buzz on with this Riesling that has "searing, laser-like acidity" but that are soooo important to the grand scheming butterfly effect that each bottle of alcohol is somehow subject to that makes them just so magical. I wish people felt that way about cloves of garlic. Then you ask to use their straightening iron and they remind you of that time you used it and left it plugged in as you ran off to spin class and when they got home the nearly-empty-but-squeezing-every-last-bit-out-of-it tube of Sensodyne™ had melted and required bomb squad assistance. Even though that happen 13 years ago, that's an essential part of why you, personally, have developed such elevated tertiary characteristics in the bottle which are sure to develop over the next 7 to 24 years and lending the curling iron to you now would be a crime since there's so much more in your character that could even further develop by finding another alternative to borrowing my blowdryer that just...don't you get it?
The bottom line is: we're the worst. And we just can't help ourselves. The good ones know it.
So the next time you see a hot prospect on a dating app and in their bio they say they run the wine program at El Fiasco...you'll know to swipe left.