How to: Butlers and Wine

​​​The wonderful world of wine, there are thousands of grape varieties, producers, connoisseurs, areas and bottles, and then, you have The Butler. The word Butler springs out of the French «Bottelier», the person or officer guarding the royal bottles. Royal or not, being a professional Butler requires a certain knowledge of wine and beverage. For example:«Bordeaux red from the Eastern side matches perfect with rustic meat dishes – White wine from South-Tyrol made from Kerner grapes gives the much-needed acidity and freshness to a salty crab soup – Blanc de Blanc Champagne is the ideal match for Sushi…» Guests and customers expect knowledge when entering a retailer or a wine serving facility, the principal or guest in a private house deserves the same know-how. 

In Butler schools, wine and beverage knowledge is a necessity.

It is essential for running a fine dinner, and it is needed for keeping track of a wine cellar or when buying in for your household. Not necessarily in the term of being a specialist, but knowing the basics, developing from there, and to doing it in line with your principal or managers taste and preference.The main key is to learn the ABC of wine, and from there take it to a point where you are comfortable talking about, testing, buying and addressing wine and other beverages. As mentioned, the Butler term started as a bottle officer, and people around us expect a certain knowledge in the matter.

What to know about wine for a butler?

As mentioned, the level jump from ‘basic’ to ‘specialist’ is huge and frankly tremendous, so starting with a small circle of knowledge is the elemental beginning. It is all about pairing wine to food, knowing the labels, grapes and producers, and having a platform of knowing styles and diversity in the most common wine countries and areas. After all, it is not rocket science, it is just about finding styles that fit, and tastes which complement each other – And that is actually not an answer with a blueprint, it is an answer built on experience, knowledge and the wine connoisseurs: tasting, tasting, tasting. 

Tasting wine is the best teacher for a Butler

Because there are many answers that can be correct, and it is all up to the butler serving the wine, and the principal or guests preferences. The keyword is always to taste both food and wine of course and then decide: Wine complementing the food, food complementing the wine, or to make a contrast and challenge the guests tasting experience, which can be a gamble or a treat for everyone involved.

Many years in hospitality, combined with a butler education, have given me some leads and inputs on handling wine. Here are some tips for you as a Butler or waiter:

  • Taste as much wine and beverage as you can. Tasting is the best teacher
  • Focus on one grape or area at the time. The world of wine is so big that You need to downsize your learning input.
  • Challenge yourself to try new tastes, food and beverages as often as possible.
  • Note down what you taste, have your notes available in a serving process.
  • Always confer with your principal or guest before deciding on wines for a party, dinner or event
  • When you have decided on a food & wine pairing, stick to it and stand by your choice.
  • There is no direct blueprint in wine and food pairing, but follow directions in what you learn, read and taste.
  • Follow producers advice when it comes to temperature, decanting and general wine preparation.
  • Always have 20% extra when serving wine, and always test the wine before serving. (Check, smell, taste and spit.)
  • Wine economy: Try to estimate the consumption based on previous guest history, but have bottles ready for opening.
  • The Butler should never preach. When asked about the wine, as a Butler, you should always reply: «As You know Sir/Mam, this wine is…»

The world of wine is growing season by season. New areas, grapes, producers pop up, and following this business is a job of its own. Learn the basics, start with the classics, and find your own path and pairing method.

Wine is interesting, and the learning curve is never ending – Good luck with your choice and tastings Sir/Mam.

Written by Tore Berger: F&B Consultant & Professional Butler. Founder of Berger Consulting

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