Wines of Germany has worked closely with the UK on-trade over the last few years to help sommeliers and restaurateurs better understand the styles of wine and regions that can work so well with different types of cuisine. It’s why it is so keen to be part of the new UK Wine List of the Year awards, co-hosted by The Buyer and Star Wine List, and play its part in helping to shine the light on restaurants and their wine offer when they finally get the chance to re-open in the coming months, explains Nicky Forrest, who heads up Wines of Germany in the UK.
The entry process for the first UK Wine List of the Year awards ends on January 31. If you have a strong German list, or work with a restaurant or bar that does then this is why you should look to enter the German Wine List category, sponsored by Wines of Germany.
It’s great to have you as a partner for the new UK Wine List of the Year awards – can you explain why you wanted to support these awards and what you hope to achieve?
We felt that it was really important to support the on-trade at this time and to help ensure that there was still a vibrant hospitality scene in the UK to return to. The on-trade is very important to Wines of Germany in the fantastic work it does making consumers aware of German wines.
We’ve also been supporting with our Somm Sessions, and 31 Days campaign in particular, but it’s great to have another way to recognise the hard work that these restaurants are doing to create brilliant wine lists.We remember the days when you could judge a good wine list by its inclusion of German Riesling. Nowadays German Riesling is a given on any decent wine list, but we can go further and do more, especially with Pinot Noir.
What are the main ways in which you look to work with the on-trade in the UK?
I think it’s important to say that we’re really proud of the on-trade industry that we have in the UK. It’s exciting and constantly innovating. We see our role as more supportive than prescriptive; the on-trade understands its audience and we simply want to make it as easy as possible for to share a passion for German wine with customers.
Broadly, our supporting role falls into two categories; on the one hand we try to provide education for sommeliers and buyers, and on the other we provide the tools or the opportunity to share their knowledge with their customers.
You have the Somm Sessions events you run – can you explain the concept behind that and how it works?
We’ve been really pleased at the reception of the Somm Sessions. The original idea was to introduce German wines to sommeliers around the UK, offering both an overview and some in-depth insights into Germany’s regions and wines. We ran the first sessions in 2019 with Jan Konetzki, running targeted tastings in London, Brighton and Edinburgh exclusively for the on-trade. We had hoped to continue these in 2020, visiting further cities, but switched instead to a digital option when it was clear that this wouldn’t be possible. Within two days of advertising this online we were already over-subscribed, and had submissions from all around the UK, which was really encouraging.
Are there plans to keep that going when the on-trade returns after Covid?
We might not keep the format exactly the same. We’re always trying to react and make our support as relevant as it can be, so we’re constantly refining and making changes. However, education is an important pillar of our work with the on-trade, so this will definitely continue in one form or another.
Do you have trips to Germany for sommeliers and wine buyers ? If so how do you run those and decide which sommeliers to take?
In a normal year, we would have some fantastic trips available for sommeliers and wine buyers, organised through the German Wine Institute. They are built around particular themes that would be interesting to the industry (such as sustainability or a focus on Pinot varieties). In terms of the guest list for these, we often speak to importers to see if they have any customers that would be interested and we have quite a waiting list of people who have contacted us who are waiting to join. If anyone is interested they should get in touch with us directly.
What are the specific styles of German wine that you are most wanting to put in front of sommeliers to show what they can do in restaurants?
We have a range really, and it depends on how familiar the sommelier already is with German wine to begin with. As a starting point, there’s obviously Riesling. A lot of sommeliers are already die-hard fans of Riesling and rightly so. It’s such a versatile and food-friendly varietal that we’ve seen entire tasting menus successfully paired with different expressions of Riesling.
For those with a bit more knowledge on German wine, we’d invite them to explore the Pinot varieties that Germany is producing today – from fantastic value Pinot Noirs to brilliant barrel-aged Pinot Blancs (Germany is actually the world’s largest producer of Pinot Blanc), there are plenty to discover.
What do you think Germany’s profile and reputation is like with on-trade buyers and sommeliers?
I think that most sommeliers love German wine, for some it’s a cult kind of thing and others are just learning, but the love is definitely there. I remember a survey years ago about what sommeliers most like to drink on their days off and 80% of them said German Riesling.
What needs to happen is for the sommeliers to translate their passion for German wines to their customers. This is beginning to happen and we are seeing younger wine drinkers across the UK becoming knowledgeable about German wines, many trying them for the first time. It’s no secret now that German Riesling is one of the most versatile food wines in the world.
UK Wine List Awards
The UK Wine List Awards is a joint collaboration between The Buyer and Star Wine List which also runs other wine list competition in other countries around the world. This is the first time there is a UK event.
The awards are open now to both self nomination and also for importers to recommend customers. The closing date is January 31.
Each competition around the world has a number of categories that are the same – to help determine the global winners – but are also open to their own individual awards to reflect the tastes and styles of wines being sold in that particular country or city.
Grand Prix (best overall wine list), partnered by Austrian Wine
Best Austrian Wine List, presented by Austrian Wine
By the Glass
Special Jury Price, sponsored by SOWINE, the drinks marketing and communication consultancy.
Best Short list
- By the Glass, sponsored by Fine Wines Direct UK
- California Wine List of the Year category, backed by The California Wine Institute.
- German Wine List of the Year, sponsored by Wines of Germany.
- New Zealand Wine List of the Year, sponsored by New Zealand Wine.
- Lockdown Wine List – sponsored by Bibendum
What potentially sets these awards apart is the fact they are judged by some of the world’s most awarded and respected sommeliers, including a number of former past Best Sommeliers in the World. The panel is chaired by UK ambassador for Star Wine List, Ruth Spivey.
- Arvid Rosengren, 2016 Best Sommelier of the World
- Paz Levinson, Best Sommelier of Argentina and the Americas
- Pascaline Lepeltier, 2018 Best Sommelier of France
- Marc Almert, 2019 Best Sommelier of the World
- Lu Yang MS, Best Sommelier of China.
The awards will be handed out during an online ceremony hosted by The Buyer’s Richard Siddle and Ruth Spivey at 6pm February 22. The event will be streamed live on Star Wine List’s Facebook, sign up for the event at: facebook.com/events/853845398740676