The Best Sommelier in the world

Mark Almert shares insights about his recent win and the future of the wine industry

At just 27 years of age, one of the youngest competitors ever to win the prestigious accolade of International Sommelier’s Association (ASI) Best Sommelier of the World, Marc Almert spoke to Vinexpo Bordeaux Daily, and divulged the secret to his quick rise to the top of the profession. With multiple awards and accolades accumulated over recent years, including Sommelier Concours National des Jeunes Sommeliers in 2015, the German now lives in Zurich where he supervises the wine programme at the 5* Leading Hotel of the World Baur au Lac, including the 2* Michelin restaurant Pavillon.

IT IS A GREAT PLEASURE TO MEET FAMILIAR FACES FROM ACROSS THE WINE WORLD (AT VINEXPO), TASTE THE NEW VINTAGES OF WINE AND LEARN ABOUT TRENDS AND NEW DEVELOPMENTS.

How does one become the best sommelier in the world?

There are several things, such as methodical preparation, a lot of discipline and a huge curiosity for the world of drinks. For the competition, it is very important to learn the whole theory and stay informed. In addition, you have to taste wines and other drinks in an efficient way and retain memories of a wide variety of tastes. And don’t forget the mental preparation. We can sometimes wait five to six hours for a few minutes of tests where you have to arrive fresh and smiling. Meditation and breathing techniques can help, almost like in the theatre.

Why did you choose this career?

Already at school I knew I wanted to go into the hospitality industry. At 17, I started training in a hotel in my home city, Cologne. I soon fell in love with wine and other beverages and was lucky to have mentors who furthered my passion and skills. Once I finished my training I was certain I wanted to be a sommelier full time and managed to find a great head sommelier who taught me all the tricks of the trade in a lovely classic Michelin starred restaurant in the Rheingau region. It was also there that I started competing, before I took my first job as a head sommelier. To me the profession is so intriguing and fun: you take care of people, you never cease learning, you work in a dynamic industry, there are trends to discover, whilst spending your free time travelling to some of the world’s most beautiful and interesting places – what more can you want?

TO ME THE PROFESSION IS SO INTRIGUING AND FUN

How have you seen wines evolve ? Has climate change made a difference?

I have the impression that changes are taking place quite fast. Harvest dates are moving, maturity and hence alcohol levels are rising, chaptalisation has become less necessary and we have seen a huge shift in the spread of grapes. For example: who would have thought Germany could make drinkable Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah just one generation ago? These changes are causing many wineries and winemakers to react by adapting their approach in the vineyards, their grape (variety) plantings and also their techniques in the cellar.

What do you think are the key trends in the wine world?

Diversification of wines: new styles like orange wine, the rediscovery of ancient grapes and regions and a bloom of micro-producers. Respecting nature: more and more wineries are taking an organic and/or biodynamic approach and going for a less interventionist wine making. Global perceptions: thanks to social media and the Internet the wine world is more dynamic. It is easier to access information and trends spread faster.

Should a wine list include organic wines?

Nature needs more care than we have given in recent decades, so it is a positive trend that more and more wineries are employing organic methods, and many are seeking certification. To me a wine list should offer the restaurant guest the choice of conventional and organically produced wines, and the sommelier should be able to explain the differences in approach and style.

What does Vinexpo mean to you?

It is a great pleasure to meet familiar faces from across the wine world, taste the new vintages of wine and learn about trends and new developments. With Vinexpo, there is the added benefit that all of this takes place in one of my favorite wine regions, Bordeaux, and I look forward to spending some time enjoying outstanding cuisine with intriguing wines at marvellous châteaux.


Marc Almert, World’s Best Sommelier ASI