I am fascinated by the way we characterise an occupation. Recently I wrote in this blog about the work of an affineur. This week I have discovered another French role that I thought might help discuss coaching and coach development.
The role is that of an échanson. The French Wikipedia says that an échanson:

était un officier chargé de servir à boire à un roi, un prince ou à tout autre personnage de haut rang. En raison de la crainte permanente d’intrigues et de complots, la charge revenait à une personne en qui le souverain plaçait une confiance totale. L’échanson devait en particulier veiller à écarter tout risque d’empoisonnement et parfois même goûter le vin avant de le servir.

In summary, the échanson was “a high ranking official of the court, totally trusted, because his job included making sure that the King did not get poisoned”.
The Conseil des Echansons de France , owner of the Wine Museum of Paris, was created in 1954 for the advocacy and promotion of the best wines coming from French soil.

Among the founders of the Conseil figured famous art restorers and Parisian wine merchants. According to an ancient tradition, the echanson , or cupbearer, is he who pours the beverage. At the king court, this the position of echanson was deemed one of the highest honours from very early on. This position was reserved only for trustworthy men of the nobility. The Grand Echanson de France , or simply, Echanson de France , served the king personally at four annual celebrations: Spring, Whitsunday, All Saints’ Day, and Christmas. With the help of his assistants, the grand echanson managed the king’s wine cellars in addition to overseeing more ordinary services. Caretakers of the tradition, the members of the Conseil des Echansons embody the knowledge and experience of their illustrious predecessors. Its mission is to maintain a certain savoir-faire and to preserve the quality that accounts for the universal renown of French wines.

In these days of coaching teams it would be fascinating to think of the role of assistant coaches as échansons. Each of them bringing a very special care to the support of the head coach, each with knowledge of particular domains. It interests me too how each generation of coaching teams creates a savoir-faire linked to the history of a club or team.
I am not sure that the coach recruitment process is at the point where adverts are placed for a coach with affineur qualities or an assistant coach with experience as an échanson. But I imagine the job description might allude to the kinds of knowledge and experience these roles (affineur and échanson) imply.
I wonder what might happen if a sommelier applies for an échanson position … would it help me clarify roles?
Photo Credits
The Secret Stash


  1. James Acheson was the personal body guard of King Henry II of France (and, previously, King Philipe I ?) Henry II’s older brother, Philipe, was married to Mary Queen of Scots. Acheson was an archer of the Scots Guard (Guarde Eccossais) assigned to guarde the French royalty. Since Acheson was Henry II’s personal guard/attendant, the French word “Echason” probably derives from the phonetic spelling of “Acheson”. James Acheson later accompanied Mary Queen of Scots back to Scotland as her escort/body guard. She rewarded him with an appointment as master of the Scottish mint and silver mining rights.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here