Learning to become a sommelier, or simply understanding what it takes to be one, can be a subject as dry as a Muscadet.

This simile proves apt for Secrets of the Sommeliers, which attempts, and largely succeeds, to outline the basic issues budding wine servers face. Although the book emphasizes the enormous investment required to buy great wines and run a restaurant wine program, author Jordan Mackay does in fact bring in as mundane and as food-oriented a wine as Muscadet—and Chenin Blanc.

For those who would love to have a career in restaurant wine, the book goes a long way in detailing how much work is involved in reaching the top of this odd profession—and how unlikely it is to achieve success without extraordinarily detailed study, travel to culinary centers around the world, massive expenditures to participate...

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