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The Upstate Economy

NY's wine industry looking for a few good sommeliers


Despite Gov. Andrew Cuomo's recent zest for upstate beer and wine, some industry leaders think his plan has a missing link. Thy say the lack of wine experts known as Master Sommeliers in the upstate region could be a road-block to the sector reaching its full potential and bringing with it growth in tourism.  

The general manager of the New York Wine and Culinary Center, Thomas Belelieu, is supportive of the recent initiatives from Albany, but says that without experts to communicate the true value of upstate wines they'll remain hard to find on wine lists.

"You need to train the trainers is the idea. You've got to train people who will actually train and educate the consumer, the public," said Belelieu. And that link is missing in the chain. That's what we'd like to fulfill here."

Belelieu says although New York is the third-largest wine producing state in the nation, its six master sommeliers all reside in New York City.

He says the Wine and Culinary Center is starting a sommelier training course to train its own staff and in turn pass that knowledge onto producers, retailers and consumers.

While New York produces internationally renowned wines, Belelieu says filling in the gap in the industry's ability to communicate this would complement the state's plans to try to increase upstate tourism.