How did you become a sommelier? What drove you to this career?
After starting my work life as baker, I turned bar tender and then apprentice for restaurant management in a Hotel with a Michelin starred restaurant. That was back home in Germany. At Hotel Jakob I met Hendrik Thomams who is one of the few German Master Sommeliers, an award winner and super knowledgeable of wine and food. The perfect host for all kind of guests.
Northern German restaurants used to be very stiff but Hendrik was a brilliant entertainer, storyteller and host. I thought that this guy has the most difficult and best job of all. I was hooked, especially then falling in love with wine and wine falling in love with me a little. From here, I went straight to London and started with Gordon Ramsay and Jason Atherton at Maze in 2007.
What’s the best thing about working in wine and hospitality?
The people. Colleagues at work, wine friends who spend their life in their vineyards to produce the amazing juice, wine friends who import wines and connect us with the producers and of course the guests who come and drink wine with us.
What is the most memorable wine you’ve ever tasted?
It was a litre bottle for €1.29 made from the Airen grape in the big plain of southern Spain. I will never forget that rotten taste. There are great wines under £10 in the world; I don’t think I am a wine snob but that cheap Satan-bottle reminded me how lucky I am to spend my life tasting some of the most artisan wines ever produced.
Right now, what’s the most underrated wine/vineyard on the planet?
Rhone valley. The river is one of the longest in Europe, a kaleidoscope of geographical aspects, climates and grape varieties. There is much undiscovered and underrated. You find wines at all price points and quality levels. We must drink more Rhone wines!
Champagne is an overrated wine; I mean the mass-produced battery acid with bubbles you buy in the off-licence
And what’s the most overrated?
Champagne, I mean the mass-produced battery acid with bubbles you buy in the off licence. The good stuff is great but you have to pay a premium!
Is there a particular wine that you’d love to try before you die?
I would love to taste that wine served at the wedding in Cana. A certain Jesus of Nazareth performed a party trick and turned ten amphorae full of water into wine two thousand years ago.
What is your favourite food and wine pairing?
Palo Cortado Sherry and old Comté cheese. In case that is out, I particularly like 1988 Clos de Tart Grand Cru from Magnum with any food that includes black truffle and Fois Gras!
Where do you buy your own wine for personal consumption (not investment)?
Most of the time I ask one of the importers we work with if I can purchase directly with them. Otherwise, London is full of cool shops. It is easy to pick up a bottle on the go.
As I am working in the city and all these are on my doorstep: Winemaker’s Club in Farringdon, 10 Cases in Convent Garden (they also have a super cool wine App called DROP, delivering vino to you!), Newcomer Wines in Dalston, Dynamic Vines in Bermondsey, New Street close to Liverpool Street or the Wine Library which has been a cosy basement shop since the 1980s just next to Ten Trinity Square.
German Riesling will never hit mainstream the market as much as all wine nerds would love that to happen
Do you have any go-to value bottles for drinking at home?
German Riesling of course. Although it will never hit mainstream the market as much as all wine nerds would love that to happen. You find value in all German wine regions; Kabinett is slightly off-dry and the best thing as aperitif, with a stir fry or for a lazy Sunday Brunch.
Best hangover cure?
Best is to prevent it! Before going to bed I am usually sane enough to drink a pint of water and have some savoury food. In the case I wake up still fully dressed, or I forgot to hydrate, I use my emergency kit to get me back up to life. However, usually I prefer to suffer through it the next day. #Don’tHideFromYourPains
Hangover Emergency kit
- Rehydration sachet - add to a glass of water, feel like a hero in a couple of minutes
- Miso soup/ Stock-cubes in a reusable cup with hot water
- Tabasco (add on your salty sandwich, spicy stuff makes me drink more water)
What famous person, living or dead, would you most like to share a glass with and why?
Clare Smyth OBE, but she is always so busy at her Restaurant Core! You can never spend enough time with your friends. Otherwise Beyoncé Knowles because I hope she would ask me for a spin on the dance floor after a few glasses!
And what would you drink?
Whatever the lady has ordered: make it two, please. In case of Clare Smyth it must be a good white burgundy. Maybe 2014 Batard-Montrachet from Domaine D’Eugenie? If I meet Beyoncé, she loves red Bordeaux; so it would have to be a glass of Château Latour!