"Wine and literature have a lot in common. They’re both expressive, they tell stories and define character—and people elicit responses when they open up to them."
Accredited Sommelier, Algonquin College - Ottawa
Smart Serve certified
Masters Degree in English
Question: What does being a sommelier mean to you?
Wayne Walker: Wine is as much a culture as it is a drink. I see myself as the storyteller behind the wine. It’s important to recognize that everyone experiences each wine differently. Characterizing wines as good or bad is in fact ineffectual. It’s my job to characterize wines for people in the spirit of enhancing their pleasure. Wine shopping can be a mystifying experience for some people; I find it inspiring to help them navigate the process based on their individual likes and dislikes. As a particular wine flows across someone’s tongue and creates a sensation throughout their body, I watch for that ‘ah ha!’ moment of discovery in their eyes. For me as a teacher, nothing is more gratifying.
Question: What questions are you asked most often by people about wine or food, and how do you answer?
WW: “What wine do you like?” Being a sommelier isn’t so much about sharing what I like, it’s about helping people discover something that suits them. I try to get to know people’s preferences by asking questions like whether they take sugar in their coffee or enjoy ice cream. Based on their answers I can make better judgments about what flavours and textures might most excite their palates. The other question I often encounter is, “What’s a great inexpensive bottle of wine?” While price should never be the top selection criterion, there are some great inexpensive wines out there. Instead of recommending a specific bottle of wine, though, I like to recommend regions. For example, there are some fantastic low-priced wines that hail from California, Italy and Chile.
Question: What was your first memorable wine experience?
WW: I had a professor during my training as a sommelier who had a wine cellar full of bottles that represented special occasions in his life. As luck would have it, I was there when he decided to uncork a 30-year-old bottle of Sauternes, a French dessert wine. I was first struck by the incredible flavour of the drink. I now realize that experience helped me uncover the real meaning of wine. I began to understand that wine could be a record of history and experiences—the act of drinking the wine is in fact only the beginning of the real discovery. There is nothing more memorable than experiencing just the right wine at the perfect moment.
Wayne's Wine Tips
The character of wine matches the character of people.
Wine is non-partisan. Don’t say you prefer red or white—there are choices of both for all.
Wine is a portal to culture.
Bon voyage! A gift of wine is the gift of an experience.
Wine and literature have a lot in common. They’re both expressive, they tell stories and define character—and people elicit responses when they open up to them.