Sometimes when I am discussing wines, I get the sense from some that I have no idea of what I am talking about. They question me on my credentials and on my designations. I normally just nod and agree that I do not have any credentials or designations about wine. I tell them that I have experience in the field, hands on experience.
There seems to be a sense of disbelief if one is not capable of showing diplomas and membership. There is an abundance of Sommeliers today, and I find it fascinating that someone has the drive and desire to attain the title. It is quite rigorous to achieve and those that have the title; are and should be a fount of knowledge regarding wine. If I was younger, perhaps it would have been a lofty goal for me. Years ago when I began my interest in wines, there may have only been a couple of Sommeliers in the Detroit area. Most were called Wine Stewards and only the few restaurants that really had the desire to carry a fine selection of wines even worried about having an additional person on the floor. The wine buying was either done by the owner, the chef and often by the head bartender. The selection of wines in restaurants and even in wine stores was not the selection that one finds today.
Nowadays I find talking to Sommeliers very interesting and I find that I can monopolize their time. I enjoy finding a recommendation of an interesting little wine, because back in the days of yore, I think that their main job was to get the person to invest in a pricier bottle of wine, just because they said so. When I meet someone that has the credentials I immediately think of all the different aspects of the wine industry that they could be in, and how fascinating that industry can be. My observations and writings are not because I am trained, but from having had the chance to try many thousands of wines (I would say) over the years and just learning what I think pairs with a meal, or what would be a wonderful wine to drink with friends. So if I am a charlatan, just group me with the man behind the curtain, who really meant to do the best for all he met.