Every day you send me beautiful e-mails (almost all of them, I would wring the necks of some...😅) and one of the things you ask me most often is "how to work as a sommelier in London". Curiously enough, I have never visited London: I have always put it off, preferring destinations that would satisfy me more oenologically! However, I have not neglected this city at all: in fact, this wine blog will also become the property of a London LTD in the next few months... my partner and I are preparing some really wonderful projects for 2020, including a wine app that I am sure you will fall in love with! 😍🍷 I mean, London is in our next plans! Definitely!
That is why I decided to write this article with the first 3 moves I would make if I wanted to work as a sommelier in London! I spoke to a couple of acquaintances who live there (he a sommelier, she a business executive) who suggested several points... and these are the 3 we highlighted over and over again! So I'd say let's start from here... then as soon as I go to London next year to study the environment I'll delve into this article... anyway if everything goes as it should (and I'll work hard for that) I'll be in London a few weeks and there will be plenty of time! 😉
How to work as a sommelier in London, Tip 1: cut, cut, cut... if you bore, you lose!
Whether you have already started working as a sommelier in London or are still at home deciding whether you should pack that absurd fur cap, this advice is more than useful, it is essential! In fact you need it as much to find your dream job as to keep it. I want to make a small premise: we Italian sommeliers grew up in a state 'more advanced' than the City (incredible but true: there is something in which London is more backward than Italy!). The average Italian consumer, even the most lame one, is more evolved than the average London consumer. However, this does not mean that there are no wine connoisseurs in London, on the contrary, the enthusiasts are really passionate, that is, they are really knowledgeable and often much more so than their Italian equivalents! However, the 'big guy' only cares about two wine numbers and, sorry to disappoint you, they have nothing to do with planting density or the number of months of ageing.
Price and score on industry guides are the two numbers par excellence. Want to work as a sommelier in London? Start here: plug your nose and show yourself to be a super expert in how to combine these two figures, both to enchant customers and to maximise the earnings of the establishment where you work. I know, I know... to you, wine is first and foremost poetry. Wrong, wine is a product, wineries and restaurants are businesses and the wheel must turn. Do you want to get hired? Do you want to keep your brand new job in the city? Prove that you are special by being able to choose the best-ranked wines in the guides with the best value for money for the restaurant or hotel where you work. To talk about terroir, I assure you there is always time....
How to work as a sommelier in London, tip 2: it all starts with fluent English!
No, it is not trivial at all! I have more than one acquaintance who has the absurd thought of moving to London with a school level of English and the expectation of learning to speak it properly there within a few weeks. It doesn't work like that! I can even move to London and take it easy with English because I don't work closely with the English public, but you don't! How to work as a sommelier in London? Start with really fluent English! This not only allows you to take and pass your first telephone or video conference interviews with greater ease, but above all gives you great confidence, both with clients and employers!
Don't have the money for an expensive professional English course? Learn it the unconventional way... in my opinion it is still very effective and makes you learn more useful things at the same time! How? Here is my method:
- Find an English-speaking wine blog you like and start reading it. Many things you don't understand? Of course, the English-Italian translator and dictionary will do just that! As a dictionary, I recommend you use Wordreference, it is more professional!
- Watch and listen to a documentary/movie about wine in English, without worrying too much about not being able to follow everything. Ideally, you watch/listen to it the first time in Italian, the second time in English with Italian subtitles, the third time in English with English subtitles and the fourth time in English without subtitles! And you repeat with a new film! By the end you will have learnt both the subject of the documentary and English... better than that! 😄
- Follow English wine cellars, wine bloggers and industry professionals on Instagram and interact with them by commenting on their photos! This will not only give you practice in writing and comprehension, but will also give you chances to open up new job horizons. One thing leads to another...
Obviously this is just a start, you will need to perfect both your grammar and your speech over time... but this is the best way to start: learn by cultivating your passion for wine! It probably won't be enough to work at Gordon Ramsay's, but it will be enough to move to London! In the meantime, get started, because in pursuit of perfection, you get old without having achieved anything!
How to work as a sommelier in London, Tip 3: Do at least one WSET course!
Even and especially if you have an AIS diploma or equivalent, taking at least one WSET course is essential for you. Not only because WSET is a reference in the wine world, but because the course is in English and this will really give you a leg up on working in London as a sommelier (or anywhere else!). Imagine how familiar you will become with technical wine English... and if you are already an AIS sommelier you can start at WSET level 3!
Did you know that there are intensive WSET courses to take a level in just 7 days? How about an alternative 'study holiday'? You take the course from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for six days and on the seventh day, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., you take the exam! I know, it's a killer stretch, but on the other hand you have everything nice and fresh that you are studying and it will take you much less time to absorb the concepts. I don't like to dilute either... the cost, for the London venue, is €840. I recommend you book to stay in London for at least 10 days, where the first day you will arrive calmly and get some rest, the next 7 days you will devote to the course, on the ninth day you will party hard and really get into the swing of things and on the tenth day you will calmly return! For more information follow this link. This year from 16 to 20 September I am on holiday - well-earned rest after the release of the second edition of my book How to become a Sommelier-, but next year as I anticipated I will fly to London to do this course as well and I will let you know!
WSET offers the possibility of taking courses from the comfort of home by choosing the 'online' option. Personally, I do not recommend this option because I find it as expensive as it is confusing! Each level is subdivided into 2 semesters that cost £1290 each, so to obtain, for example, the third WSET level you would spend just under 3000 €! It will also take you about 1 year, which I find extremely complicated, especially if you are working in the meantime, to manage both your lessons and your studies! Personally, I find it much more effective to concentrate everything in one week... and it is also cheaper! Of course London is an expensive city, but there are several solutions for not spending a lot of money to sleep in London for 10 days (if you want to learn more in an article on how to sleep in London while spending relatively little, ask me in a comment!) and it will also be a great experience!
I hope you find these tips useful! Have you ever worked as a sommelier abroad? Tell me about your experience in a comment!