The pandemic has changed the world of fine dining in many ways. And that now includes how you choose your wine.

Many restaurants have given up on having an in-house sommelier, The New York Times reported on Friday. Due to the vicissitudes of the restaurant industry, and the economic model of dining establishments in a post-pandemic world, somms have become seen as more of a luxury than a necessity.

“The pandemic was a tipping point,” Eduardo Porto Carreiro, the vice president for beverages at Atlanta’s Rocket Farm Restaurants, told the Times. “It was taken for granted in many restaurants that there would be a dedicated wine person and thoughtful lists. Now, it’s a cherry on top.”

The decline of the sommelier is due to several factors that have affected restaurants more generally over the past few years. During the pandemic, many employees opted to switch careers, in favor of more stable jobs with regular hours, benefits, and other perks that restaurants aren’t always able to offer. Then supply-chain issues and inflation led to rising prices for everything, including wine, and many restaurants chose to sell off inventory and cut back on wine purchases.

Now, thanks to those trends, the wine lists at some restaurants have become shorter and simpler. And while sommeliers could once work with just wine, their job is being outsourced to employees who also act as servers, bartenders, or managers.

“Ten to 15 years ago, you could be focused on wine and not see the periphery or the bottom line,” June Rodil, a master sommelier and the CEO of Houston’s Goodnight Hospitality, told The New York Times. “Now you have to be multifaceted.”

There are, of course, still restaurants with a sommelier dedicated to their wine offerings, like Le Bernardin, where Aldo Sohm and his team assist diners in choosing the perfect bottle. And like all trends, it’s possible that this one will eventually revert back to what it used to be, with sommeliers returning to dining rooms when the restaurant industry finds itself back on more stable footing.

A number of sommeliers find great value in what they do, and they want to continue to share that passion with the people who respect a good meal and an even better glass of vino.

“The gratification of connecting with a table that learns something meaningful and is grateful, that’s priceless,” the sommelier Yumilka Ortiz told the Times. “The fact that you can create a whole experience around a bottle of wine.”

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