Roger Kugler – USA (Sommelier, Wine Consultant)

April 27, 2018

Name: Roger Kugler

Nationality: American

At the moment: USA-MO

Sommelier & Consultant


Please, tell us a little bit about your first encounter with wine & the wine industry? Any particular mentors at that time?

Family history, day job in the restaurant industry while in college, no particular mentors although I have been lucky to work with some of the best.

What specific traits or skills should a Sommelier(e) possess for professional performance and is there any person with that qualities you especially admire within the wine industry?

You have to keep in mind that your palate is precious and must be taken care of.  You have to keep an open mind to new regions, different approaches to winemaking with an eye to the past.  It’s a full time job, not something you walk away from at 5 and most of all, it isn’t about you, it’s about the customer and making their dining experience memorable.  There are many people in the industry that I admire but if I have to pick just one, it’s Kevin Zraly.

What would be your advice to a young Sommelier(e) i.e. Commis Sommelier(e) where to look finding an adequate position at home or abroad? Any further tips?

Most important to remember is that it’s a love job no matter where you look.  As far as job happiness, that is so subjective that I don’t think I can answer.


When a customer asks for advice on selecting wine what’s in your opinion would be the best approach?

Ask what kind of wine or beverage they like.  Try to determine what style, particular grape or region they prefer.  Use these as clues to finding something on your list that they will appreciate.  I’ve helped customers choose wine based on how they take their coffee and tea. If you have chosen your list well, you should be able to pinpoint something that will please them easily even if you don’t have exactly the wine they think they want.

What’s your philosophy about glasses? Are you working with well known brands or are you considering new brands as well and how do you determine?

Brand is less important than quality.  There are excellent glasses at the lower end of the price range without a pedigree and high end glassware with Tony names that are terrible.  Shape and durability is more important than label. Glassware is replaced so often, even with the hardiest quality, that I am always on the lookout for something new.

What advice would you give people on pairing wine with food?

In general, opposites attract and what grows together, goes together.  Also, you should always wait to taste the wine with the food before deciding if you like it or not.  

Wine list:

What are the key ingredients for creating a wine list for a restaurant and what is your opinion on some ridiculous pricing on wine in restaurants, do you have tips on how to determine markup?

You have a lot of Masters to please when building a list.  

1: First and foremost is the food.  Almost every wine on your list should be chosen with the food in mind.

2: Your customer must respond to the list.  Are there interesting wines at every price point and is every wine at every price point a wine you can stand behind?  Are there some well known names for comfort? Are there unknown wines for exploration? Is the sweet spot attractive or will your demographic consider your list expensive (They will be less likely to make you more than a special occasion restaurant if the price point appears too high.)  Is your list easy to read or does it make War and Peace look like a good idea? Do you have a few trophy wines for those who only buy expensive and “label” names (These are the few wines that don’t necessarily go with the food. The customer who orders these doesn’t care about the dining experience, they care about looking like they have money and they can be a very good customer to cater too.  This is also the most dangerous spot on your list because it can’t be obvious.).

3: Is your list in concert with the menu (An esoteric menu needs an esoteric wine list and vice versa.) and be consistent.  Nothing looks sloppier than an all French wine list with a few American wines tacked on the end. Make it a decent section or forego the intruders all together.

4: Is your list manageable for the storage space you have available and will it be easy to locate the wines during service?

5: Do you have enough key wines with good supply in most sections that you don’t have to worry about leaving yourself short or looking like you are negligent?  Customers hate to hear that you are out of a wine you have listed and that they chose, and if you are out of the first two choices they make, you may not see them back as often or at all.

6: Have you spread your list among several distributors so you can’t be held hostage to problems out of your control?

7: Will your boss be happy with sales, customer satisfaction, the mark-up and do you have at least one of his favorite wines listed?

8: Have you tasted every wine on the list and are you up to date with how the wine has evolved?  You must be able to defend your choices to your customer.

If there is one position that I find most important, it is that the list cannot be about you.  A list with the heading “These are some of my favorite wines.” is not a list that inspires customer confidence.  You can serve your favorite wines in your home or when you are picking up the bill, but your customer wants to think that these are going to be wines that make his dining experience memorable.  It is far more important that the wines be well made and compliment the food than that you personally love them.

I consider 3 times wholesale or double retail to be fair (You have to keep an eye on local retail locations to make sure they aren’t wildly under selling you which can happen due to deep discounts from suppliers.).  You can go higher depending on your service level. However, if you get a reputation for gouging you will lose customers.

How do you manage to stay on top of the changes in the wine industry?

Read, converse, listen and taste—both from those you admire and those you don’t.  You never know where you will find useful information.

How would a new vineyard get the attention of someone like you to notice their wine and what’s the best way for producers to improve their chances of being listed?

Easiest is to drop a bottle off at my restaurant (do not stay to talk about it with me without an appointment!).  Second is to show the wine at tastings, either for your region or a supplier. Third is to get a PR agency. It is very hard for a winery to go it alone, you need to be part of your local organization. Easiest way to get listed is to have a beautiful wine at a reasonable cost from an easy to work with distributor who has a sales rep I will speak with which goes with my food.

Favourite pick:

If you were a wine, which variety would you be, and why?

Tempranillo.  Versatile and able to adapt to the situation.

What are the top 3 types of wine (your faves) would we find in your home wine collection and what’s your desert island wine?

I have lots of Tempranillo (Spanish), Sherry (I could drink it all day), and dry whites (Burgundy, Albarino, Tx Choli, Muscadet, Rotgipfler and some SB.).  I’m far more likely to drink a variety of whites than I am reds. Riesling is my God of wines and I would happily take it to solitary with me.

Any interesting suggestions about magazines or online platform?

Read everything.  You need a consensus to make an informed opinion and to get the facts the last fellow left out.

Robert Kugler

@ by Dominik Kozlik – Zeitgeist Sommelier – International Sommelier Positions –

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