|Gone, but quickly forgotten|
Sure, there were some protests, a few heartfelt complaints. None of that was unexpected. The kamikazes at PETS (People for the Ethical Treatment of Sommeliers) were their usual strident selves. A handful of women openly wept, but they were mostly mothers of sommeliers, and people understood. A few ethicists wondered if it was the right thing to do. But now that it’s over, it seems everyone agrees it was the best course; indeed, it was the only course. There were simply too many. And an overpopulation calls for the simplest and most direct answer. They had plenty of warning. It took years before the decision to cull the sommelier herd became official. And now that most of them are gone, I think we can all recognize that the world is a better place.
When we began to produce so many sommeliers, some time around the turn of the century, we didn’t realize how successfully they would thrive in the urban environment. Like the other “garbage species,” opportunists like rats and coyotes and crows, sommeliers soon spread everywhere. We’ve all had the experience of cruising through downtown in our driverless cars and being startled by the sudden appearance of a sommelier darting out from between parked cars, their highly polished tastevin reflecting the headlights, and our car only narrowly avoiding running them down. Yet in many major cities, sommelier road kills kept santitation departments extremely busy. It became a huge problem. Let’s face it, most dumps won’t accept sommeliers. Well, most dumps aside from hotel restaurants and major wine conglomerates. Too many road kill sommeliers ended up piled on the side of the road like so many waterlogged mattresses, Serta-fied sommeliers. They were eyesores, a public nuisance, and proud of it.
Maybe we should ask ourselves why we allowed the sommelier population to get out of hand in the first place. By 2020, we knew there was a problem, yet we continued to turn a blind eye to it. More and more certification programs appeared, nearly all of them morally bankrupt and useless, aimed at creating more sommeliers. There was a time not so long ago when a sommelier was a rare sight, akin to spotting a whooping crane, or an attractive wine blogger. Suddenly, seemingly overnight, they were everywhere. You couldn’t go to a wine bar without the server being a sommelier. You couldn’t attend a wine tasting without the room suddenly filling with sommeliers, who, in a weird parody of cockroaches, would quickly fill the room when the lights came on. Maybe we ignored the trend because they were so harmless, and relatively odorless, at least compared to the liquor reps. Or maybe we thought that once everyone realized that there just wasn’t room for any more sommeliers, they’d stop growing in number. Whatever the reasons, we shamefully ignored the sommelier pestilence, and we all bear some responsibility for the end result. Thousands of sommeliers humanely eradicated. Admit it, now that it’s over, it felt good.
The shelters worked for a while. Rounding up starving and inbred sommeliers, the newly minted and deranged sommeliers, and housing them in temporary shelters hoping that they’d be adopted was a grand idea. The goal was for restaurant owners, wine shop owners, winery owners, anyone who had some need for a pet sommelier, to adopt one from the Sommelier Shelters rather than hire a new one. You could walk into a shelter and pick one out, one with the cutest eyes, or one that might have been a mongrel, perhaps rabid for natural wine and destined for a short life, but who spoke to you. But soon the shelters overflowed. Sommeliers by the dozens were just dumped on their doorsteps by disappointed owners who had found they just couldn’t live with their sommelier any longer, the constant yapping late at night, their bottomless need for attention, becoming just too much. Sommelier Shelters began surreptitiously releasing sommeliers back onto the streets under the cover of darkness, giving them a few dollars and a bottle of orange wine to live on. It became a national disgrace, the worst since Donald Trump was the Republican nominee for President. Something needed to be done.
Of course, a majority of the self-proclaimed sommelier population weren’t actually sommeliers. They were pretenders. They asked each other, “What level sommelier are you?” as though sommeliers were practitioners of kung fu, or were parking garages. They took class after class to learn facts about wine, as though facts were knowledge, as if knowledge were wisdom. A First Level Sommelier, the thinking went, is still a sommelier. The same reasoning applies in cultures who think 13-year-old girls are ready to be wives. But it didn’t matter if they were actually sommeliers, any more than it matters what species of rat is taking over your apartment. You just want them gone. They’re a nuisance, and it’s embarrassing to be with friends and everywhere you turn there are sommeliers skulking about. You feel like you need a shower.
When the Sommelier Shelters didn’t solve the problem, and hunting down the last of the Master Sommeliers with drones targeting Le Paulée tastings, and destroying countless bottles of fake Burgundy as collateral damage, didn’t seem to end the infestation, the inevitable started to become reality. It was time to cull the sommelier herd. They’re not hard to catch. Sommeliers are nocturnal, shunning actual sunshine where others might see their jaundiced skin, and not particularly intelligent. In fact, even faced with growing unpopularity, they are blind to it, and will just walk right up to you and tell you they are a sommelier, and usually in the first sentence. They learned this behavior from doctors, and Jehovah’s Witnesses, to which they are closely related—all three species believe they know more than you do despite evidence to the contrary. Their behavior made them especially easy prey for the people hired to cull their numbers. Maybe the most challenging part of the Great Sommelier Eradication was administering the lottery to choose the people who would cull the sommeliers. Some estimates put the volunteers in the tens of thousands.
Many people demanded that all sommeliers should be eliminated. A radical view, but one that is easily defensible, especially if you know any. Cooler heads prevailed, however, and sommeliers who actually worked as sommeliers—didn’t just have letters after their names, or had lowered themselves to actually make wine, a crime in most states—were left undisturbed. A few hundred now remain around the world in their natural state. More than enough.
Except for their immediate families, and natural wine producers, no one misses sommeliers. Sommelier Shelters are now filled with baristas, yet another national shame. Their “time” is coming. We can only vow that we will never again allow the population of sommeliers to overrun society. We can insure that there are never again countless phony wine accreditation schools that rob our young people of a real life. And now that it’s legal to shoot anyone who claims to be a sommelier, any fucking level, who doesn’t actually work as a sommelier, the arguments over gun control have also vanished. Culling the Sommelier herd worked.