50th Sommelier AGM- Andrew O’ Gorman
The 50th Annual General Meeting of the Irish Guild of Sommeliers took place on the 17th June, 2008 in Dublin. At its foundation in 1958 it was known as the Irish Branch of the Guild of Sommeliers U.K. which was also known as the organization of wine butlers.
At the 50th AGM Mr. Frank Hendron, Honorary Life Member who joined the guild in 1958 was attending his 50th AGM. During his term as chairman of the guild in 1968 he was instrumental in inviting Gordon Bucklitsh, well known in Britian at the time as a leading crusader against snobbery in wine – drinking to give a talk on “The Purpose of the Sommelier”. Mr. Bucklitsh stated that if the mystique surrounding wine can be eliminated, a more dramatic rise in consumption will occur. The past ten to fifteen years has seen a steady rise in the consumption of wine along with a huge thirst for wine knowledge.
Frank commenced his working career in 1936 taking up employment at Todd Burns linen factory, Dublin. Just after the 2nd World War he worked as a waiter on the dining car of the Dublin – Belfast train. This was followed by a position at the Portmarnock Country Club, which previously was a residence of the Jameson Whiskey family. After a few years he moved to England and worked at the exclusive Phyllis Court Club, Henley on Thames and at the Imperial Hotel Brighton. In 1950 he returned to Ireland and took up a position as waiter at the Gresham Hotel, Dublin. In 1958 he became station head waiter and also joined the Guild of Sommeliers. As a sommelier he was honoured by a group of French Wine Companies in Paris in 1963. Frank remained at the Gresham Hotel until his retirement in1976 where he served royalty and a host of famous names of stage and screen, including Princess Grace of Monaco, Bing Crosby, the Beatles among many others.
Today’s sommeliers train energetically (mostly in their own free time and with little encouragement from their employers) in their profession while they temper their knowledge of wines and their service with a respectful and co-operative attitude to customers. No good sommelier parades his knowledge: he will respect the preference and hesitations of his customers talking them through the wine list to a wine they will enjoy, can afford and will understand.
Many of the country’s top sommeliers are members of the guild. The primary object of the guild is to promote a wider interest in, and knowledge of wines, and the proper service of wine, and to arrange for educational activities and competitions. The Irish Guild of Sommeliers is affiliated to the Association Sommelier International (ASI) and as such is part of the worldwide sommelier organization.
No matter how informative a wine list is, there is no substitute for well trained sommeliers who are able to give advice to the customer when asked.