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Showing posts from August, 2015

Sommelier

I happened to see a post at one of the wine blogs I follow regarding the derivation of the word sommelier. But while the post is accurate, mostly, as far as it goes, it doesn't to my mind go nearly far enough. First, a bare bones definition of sommelier:
A restaurant employee who orders and maintains the wines sold in the restaurant and usually has extensive knowledge about wine and food pairings (AHD). You'll sometimes see a sommelier defined as a wine steward, though technically there's a fair bit of expertise that's well beyond that of a steward.

Now, for the etymology. Sommelier is a word English borrowed from French; it's derived from Old French, from *sommerier, meaning "beast of burden," that is, a pack animal. Old French *sommerier was, it appears, borrowed into French via Provencal, and before that, from Vulgar Latin *saumrius.

The basic concept is that the sommlier, an expert on the storing and selection of wines, was a position that was on…