Name: Anne Krebiehl
At the moment: London
Master of Wine, Wine Writer & Lecturer
Please, tell us a little bit about your first encounter with wine & the wine industry? Any particular mentors at that time?
I came into the wine world as a kind of ‘refugee’ from a different career: I had moved to London from Germany in order to go to university. I attended Birkbeck College which allowed me to get my undergraduate in English Literature in evening lectures and tutorials, so I could earn a living during the day – which I did working in administrative jobs. And I wanted to get away from that and write – and initially, it was very, very, very difficult to get published. Imagine having a weird surname like Krebiehl, not being a native speaker, being an outsider without a track record in the wine industry, and trying to get published! It was hard and I pitched, pitched, pitched. One or two editors took me seriously and I will be forever grateful to them for publishing my first few articles. I got WSET qualifications from 2006 onwards, got the WSET Diploma in 2010, started straight into the MW program, and became an MW in September 2014. I have been a freelancer since 2009 and worked a vintage in New Zealand and Germany in 2009, and in Italy in 2010 – to help me understand the practical side of winegrowing and winemaking.
What specific traits or skills should a Sommelier(e) possess for professional performance and is there any person with those qualities you especially admire within the wine industry?
A sommelier first and foremost needs to love people – even more so than wine. The true skills of a good somm are openness and communication. They need to understand the wines but they need to understand their clients, and their clients’ needs even better. That is when they add real value and open the door to wine.
What would be your advice to a young Sommelier(e) i.e. Commis Sommelier(e) where to look at finding an adequate position at home or abroad? Any further tips?
A career in wine is a passport to the world. I would recommend that you educate yourself, learn to think critically (nothing lends itself to bullsh*t as much as wine does, there is a lot of hot air – so learn to think on your own two feet rather than repeating a lot of dross). Read widely, visit wine regions, always try and see both sides of the story. I remember a zealous young somm who thought only Grower Champagnes were worth tasting…. Poor kid – he shut himself off from some of the best wines and a whole lot of history…. A good somm can see the value in a mass-produced wine as well as in an artisanally made wine. Real understanding encompasses the entire world of wine. What you then decide to drink yourself and spend your own money on are different things….
When a customer asks for advice on selecting wine what’s in your opinion would be the best approach?
The best approach is to get a good understanding of what the customer is looking for and would like to spend. Gauge their level of adventure and price range and take it from there.
What is your philosophy about glasses? Are you working with well-known brands or are you considering new brands as well and how do you determine?
I do not work as a somm but as a writer. At home, I have various brands of glasses. My faves for sparkling wine (which I consume a lot of ?) are Jamesse Grande Champagne, I love Zalto Bordeaux for Pinot Noir (don’t kill me!) and I do most of my tasting and have passed my exams with, Riedel Chianti.
What advice would you give people on pairing wine with food?
I would tell them to relax and follow their own taste and pleasure. I love Pinot Noir, so I have my steak with Pinot Noir rather than Cab Sauv or Malbec, again, don’t kill me, but I drink what I like…. I also have fizz throughout the meal, etc….. yes there are some real wine and food clashes but hey, we need people to enjoy and engage with wine, not put them off with rules or this terrible, old-fashioned idea that there is a right way and a wrong way…..
Should a Sommelier(e) taste the guest’s wine?
That depends: if they unscrew a bottle of easy-drinking wine there is no need if they decant an old bottle that may well be subject to bottle/age variation why not…
Where would you suggest a young Sommelier start searching for Sommelier positions on the internet in your country?
No idea – I am a writer.
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 markups?
I do not work as a somm. But I help to judge wine lists for a competition. It is astonishing how well you can spot real character in a list, short or long. Some lists seem like random arrangements of wines from a few regions and grapes, haphazard and weird. Others have real purpose and a clear line of thought – this is true of long and/or shortlists. You can spot real care, expertise, experience, and taste every time.
How do you manage to stay on top of the changes in the wine industry?
I travel, travel, travel, ask, ask, ask, listen, listen, listen, read, read, read. Keep your eyes, ears and mind open and look around you. Exchange views with your peers, with other sectors from the wine industry. And keep abreast of the changes in other industries, too! There is such a thing as zeitgeist!
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?
If there was a simple answer to this, anyone would make a fortune selling wine. We all know that this is not the case. Having a clear idea of who you and your wines are and what you stand for is a good start. You cannot address the entire market, you need to be clear of where your product fits into the market and target that segment by way of product, packaging, and pricing. It is amazing how many people still get that wrong. Identify your target market and then find out who the players are: the importers, the gatekeepers, the journalists…
If you were a wine, which variety would you be, and why?
I am bound to say Riesling: I am German, I like high-acid – which I associate in wine as in life with clarity – having clarity is so important. Like Riesling, I can be authentic, sometimes sweet but also intensely tart. Then there is the thing about maturing well ?
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?
All my favorite wines have one thing in common: brisk acidity. I have lots of traditional method sparkling wine (Champagne, Crèmant, Sekt, English Sparkling) from all corners of the globe. I love and adore dry Riesling. I also collect Pinot Noir – again I am open to subtle, brisk styles from across the globe. Then there is some Italian stuff (hello Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, Nerello..) and I also have a soft spot for Blaufränkisch/Lemberger and Syrah……and, and, and….. My desert island wine will be a stonkingly good fizz.
Any interesting suggestions about magazines or online platform?
I am biased – but I love to read and to write for The World of Fine Wine: here real issues can be tackled and understood in depth.
@ by Dominik Kozlik – Zeitgeist Sommeliers – www.sommelier-jobs.com