Sommelier sessions with Marc Almert

05 Dec 2016
3 min read
Winner of the Gaggenau Sommelier Awards 2016, Marc Almert talks to FOUR about what it means to be international cultural ambassador to the Gaggenau brand…

Where did you grow up?

In Cologne, in the West of Germany, a traditional beer and carnival village.

What did you aspire to be when you grew up?

For a long time I had the dream of becoming a physicist. I still enjoy numbers, but my passion is more for people, culinary, travelling and languages, which lured me towards the hospitality industry.

How did you find your way to into the world of wine and spirits?

Whilst completing a traditional hotel training I noticed that I enjoyed the huge variance between different wines, spirits and cocktails. First I added a bartender’s training. Then a couple of my superiors took me along to vineyard visits and wine tastings… and I became hooked to this fascinating world.

What do you think makes a good sommelier?

Humility, curiosity and a good memory. The guests wish is always above our personal opinion. There is always more wine and other interesting beverages to discover. When recommending wine, we should have a good idea of how the wine showed last time we had it ourselves.

Do you think that more people are entering this industry and why do you think that is?

Yes, more are. Why? Certainly media features like the film “Somm” or the series “Uncorked” helped. In general however I would say that more and more people enjoy wine and have become curious about it – hence also more and more take it on as a profession.

You recently took part in the Gaggenau International Sommelier Awards 2016, can you tell us a bit about what was involved inthecompetition?

With a very international group we were put through a lot of different tests. The preliminaries consisted of a video interview and a tough theory paper. The final round in Vienna included blind tasting and identification of wine, spirits and coffee (!), a quick fire oral theory exam, wine list correction, as well as serving and explaining a wine of our choice to a challenging dish by Harald Irka.

How did you feel when you were announced as one of the finalists of the competition?

When I received the mail that I was part of the final squad I was thrilled. It is always a huge honour and pleasure to meet somms from all over the world. I love Vienna, so I was very happy to see that we would get a feel for the city’s atmosphere with a horse carriage ride, brunch and a traditional palais. And I always enjoy the thrill associated with a timed exam – you never know what is expected of you, and it is good fun and practice to take part.

How did you feel when you were announced as winner of the competition and what does that mean to you?

It is an incredible honour. Having gotten to know the team of Gaggenau closely during the competition I am proud to be their ambassador in form of promoting the culinary arts further. In addition, the main prize – an intensive training with the head judges Annemarie Foidl an world champion Serge Dubs on the domaine Dolfi in Tuscany – is a once in a lifetime experience and chance to deepen one’s knowledge.

What interesting trends/themes are going on in the wine world?

Seemingly the wine world is getting bigger, despite the actual acreage count. More and more interesting subregions are emerging all over the world, with a myriad of fascinating grape varieties in their wake. Keep an eye out for Portugal, South Africa, Greece and many more.

What are your FOUR indispensable wine collection favourites and a pairing suggestion?

I always have a bottle of champagne chilled in my fridge. Food pairing? Usually a happy, unexpected occasion is the best pairing. Try Deutz, a great producer from Ay.Try some game with a fruity sauce together with a Mosel Riesling Kabinett, for example from Markus Hüls, a young and upcoming wine maker.

Buy and cellar some Pinotage from Sebastian Beaumont, a cool climate producer from Walker Bay in South Africa. Open it in a couple of years time with some grilled poultry and you’ll be amazed by its elegance.

For special occasions with great fish dishes, I’m always a big fan of classic Burgundy. Try some of the Meursault Premier Crus from Remoissenet, a producer in Beaune who has a treasure of mature vintages in their medieval cellars.