June-July 2020


Uncorked with Beeran Meghpara, MD

by Liz Hillman Editorial Co-Director

Dr. Meghpara with his wife, Shailee Viroja, at Palmaz Vineyards in Napa Valley, California

Dr. Meghpara at Barnett Vineyards in Napa Valley, California, enjoying a glass of sauvignon blanc
Source (all): Beeran Meghpara, MD

If you’re out to dinner with Beeran Meghpara, MD, you might want to hand him the wine list. As a level 3 sommelier, he knows a thing or two about how to pick a good bottle.
A few years ago, Dr. Meghpara and his wife attended a 1-day crash course at the Wine School of Philadelphia.
“It is kind of a complicated world, the wine world. You go to a wine store, you see all these bottles everywhere, it’s hard to know what you’re supposed to do, then you go to a restaurant and try to go through the wine list and it’s a lot,” Dr. Meghpara said. “We thought that because we like [wine] so much, why don’t we learn a little more about it.”
They enjoyed that course enough to start taking semester-long classes toward advancing as sommeliers.
“You can keep taking as many [courses] as you want, and there are different levels of certification. It’s an ongoing learning process. We’re in the middle of that. We do it on a part-time basis, and it’s a lot of fun,” Dr. Meghpara said.
For those who might have seen documentaries on becoming a sommelier, Dr. Meghpara said the accreditation through the National Wine School is similar to the famous Court of Master Sommeliers.
“That’s more for people who are trying to get in the industry. It’s based on knowledge and tasting and also service. The National Wine School is also knowledge and tasting, but there is no service component. … This is an attractive option for those with non-wine related careers looking to expand their wine knowledge as a hobby.”
Dr. Meghpara went on to describe the five levels of sommeliers.
“The highest level, five, that would be a master somm. That’s what the people in Somm, the documentary, were studying for. We’re not that. You need to take a year off of life and write a thesis to do that,” he said.
Dr. Meghpara and his wife, currently level 3s, are working toward level 4.
“You have to take multiple classes … to get to that point, and you have to take six semesters. We’ve done four,” he said. “To get to each level you have to take the required classes, then there is a final exam.”
The exam includes blind tasting wines of the seven noble grapes.
“You take a sip … say what it is, then they ask you some questions about it,” he said.
There’s also a written test about the different wine regions, history, etc. This comprises the first two levels. After that, you get more focused knowledge on different areas of wine.
“We took a class that’s called the Master of French Wine, so it’s a class just on France. Eventually you take enough of those and you get your level 4,” he said.
In addition to having fun with the experience and finding it useful in restaurants and wine stores, Dr. Meghpara said it’s been excellent for networking.
“The most helpful situation is as a networking opportunity. It’s a huge conversation starter. You’re out to dinner with your colleagues or people in industry and if you don’t have a lot in common … everyone wants to talk about this,” he said.
Overall, Dr. Meghpara prefers Old World wines (like those from France). Specifically, he said he likes sauvignon blanc from Sancerre, France, in the Loire Valley, and French Bordeaux as a red.
For those who don’t know where to start when they go out to dinner and are faced with the wine list, Dr. Meghpara has a word of advice.
“If you want to hedge your bet, the best bottle to get is a pinot noir, if you like red wine. It’s a very versatile wine, it works with seafood, white meat, dark meat. There are tons out there, but to get a good price point, I would say something from the Willamette Valley in Oregon. You almost can’t go wrong,” he said.

Pronouncing sommelier

: som-al-ē-yay
French: som-el-yay
Never: som-al-ear

About the doctor

Beeran Meghpara, MD

Co-director of Refractive Surgery
Wills Eye Hospital
Clinical assistant professor of ophthalmology
Sidney Kimmel Medical College
at Thomas Jefferson University
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


Meghpara: bmeghpara@willseye.org

Uncorked with Beeran Meghpara, MD Uncorked with Beeran Meghpara, MD
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