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Alex Gilbert-Petz
Rob Greig

Quit your job, become a... sommelier

By Matt Breen

Alex Gilbert-Petz, 31, head sommelier at Petrus

What does being a sommelier involve?

'A sommelier helps and guides customers in the wine to accompany their food. We've got the knowledge and know-how to enhance their dining experience through our selection of wine. For me, it all began with Sunday lunches with my family. My parents would enjoy a glass of wine with their meal, and my interest started there.'

How do you become a sommelier?

'Experience of working in restaurants is good: you've got to be able to command the floor. Then you might move into being a commis [junior] sommelier - this is where you start to gain the knowledge required for the job. At the top, you have a whole team of sommeliers working under you.'

What does your typical day involve?

'It starts around 9.30 in the morning. Duties involve liaising with suppliers, tasting, and taking deliveries. My sommelier team and I make sure we've got everything we need for service. Then service starts, and the day finishes at 11.30pm or midnight.'

Have you served any famous people?

'I was proud to have the opportunity to serve the Queen, which was fantastic. I've also served other members of the royal household, and members of parliament. That was exciting. I feel very fortunate to have had those experiences.'

Did you approve of Her Maj's plonk choice?

'Absolutely - the Queen's wine selection was very, very good.'

Ever had any embarrassing wine-related mishaps?

'When I first started out and was training as a sommelier, I poured red wine into a white wine glass. Believe me, that is really frowned upon... but that was very early on in my career.'

Is it frustrating when guests make a wine choice that you don't agree with?

'Sure. But that's what makes the job so interesting - opinions are diverse. It's about recommending wines they wouldn't ordinarily try, about taking them out of their comfort zone.'

Hours: 50-60hrs p/w

Starting salary: £20k p/a

Qualifications: WSET award

Or why not become a foley artist?

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