(Fine Dining Lovers) While wine bars reacted to Covid-19 emergency lockdown restrictions (relatively) easily, sommeliers in restaurants have dug deep to continue connecting diners to wine and other drinks. Many establishments are only open for delivery, while others in more advanced recovery phases are operating with limited capacities. But beyond the obvious difficulty of sampling vintages while sporting a surgical mask, where do sommeliers stand in the ‘new normal’?
Still operating in delivery mode, Diego Vásquez of Central in Lima, Peru, relies on his phone to recommend clients ordering a Virgilio Martínez and Pía León takeout a vintage from the 600-label cellar. “We have two direct ways of contact. Either giving our client an assessment on the phone or presenting a wine face-to-face, given that the same five-sommelier team now undertakes delivery,” said the head sommelier.
Around the world, restaurants have started resuming service with safety protocols and limited capacity. Fine-dining restaurants in particular depend on sommeliers as key front-of-house workers to create a seamless link between the kitchen and the table. Paz Levinson, cheffe sommelière exécutive atGroup Pic’s ten establishments, continued training her teams during lockdown via online tastings and virtual visits to wineries. Then she had to quickly adapt to serving the public in France’s next recovery phase.
“We’ve reopened some restaurants and there’s lots more al fresco dining happening on Paris’ streets,” she said. “We still leave a physical wine list on the table, but it’s also available online or with a QR code, should diners prefer not to touch it. And while we wear gloves, we avoid touching everything as much as possible. Anne-SophiePic worked with a perfumier to create a more appealing hand sanitiser.”