Tipping a Sommelier / Wine Steward



In my many discussions with people about tipping waiters for bottles of wine you buy at a restaurant, I had one individual write in with the following comment:

"Wine Steward/Sommelier -- If they help you choose a bottle of wine (or choose it for you), 10-20% of the wine bill only. Use discretion based on how much service was provided (did he allow you to taste before you selected?) If the wine is very expensive, it's generally acceptable to cap your tip at a reasonable amount (say, about $20), since you are tipping on the service received. Leave cash or specify on the credit card receipt which portion is for the sommelier."

I have to admit that even though I've been to restaurants that bring live lobsters out to your table for you to examine, that charge $50/person for your main dish of steak plus asparagus, and I've paid $250 for a single bottle of wine, I do not think I have ever been to a restaurant that had a separate sommelier come over to my table to talk with me about my wine choices.

I've been to a number of high end restaurants in Boston, New York, Miami, New Orleans, Washington DC and Los Angeles. I'm not saying this to boast, but because I'm honestly really curious. What types of restaurants have a sommelier who comes to the table, is it a specific style of restaurant? I've been to restaurants in England, France and Italy - but not "high end" ones there. Maybe the high end restaurants in Europe and England have that type of a person on staff? Is it a certain style of restaurant in the US that has that sort of person?

I have had waiters try to sell me on a certain wine, but I generally choose what I want to choose and don't ask for their suggestions. I am a bit cynical about wines they push before they even know what we're going to order - it makes me think they are the "high mark up wine" for the restaurant and they have been told to push the wine by their management :)

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All content on the WineIntro website is personally written by author and wine enthusiast Lisa Shea. WineIntro explores the delicious variety and beautiful history which makes up our world of wine! Lisa loves supporting local wineries and encouraging people to drink whatever they like. We all have different taste buds, and that makes our world wonderful. Always drink responsibly.