Wines for your Cellar? A Blend of All That´s Best...

Wines for your Cellar? A Blend of All That´s Best...

An Interview with Wine Culture Award Winner Cornelia Haselwanter

The Alto Adige Wine Culture Award is bestowed by the Consortium of Alto Adige Wine to passionate people who are profoundly committed to Alto Adige wine, continue to inspire others and make the inner meaning of Alto Adige wine culture known.

This year, for the "Restaurants" category, the award was given to Unterwirt in Gufidaun. A fine dining establishment where Thomas Haselwanter runs the kitchen and Cornelia, his wife, is responsible for service - and thus also for wine pairing. To find out more about her passion for wine and most meaningful experiences, we were allowed to take a peek behind the scenes with this experienced sommelier.

Passion for wine can have different origins. Ms. Haselwanter, take us on a little journey through time: what ignited your interest for wine?
Cornelia Haselwanter: The connection to wine came early on and it was partly due to my family's habit of pairing food with a glass of wine. However, I only learnt the ropes of the subject when I started my training as a sommelier. And the reason for that was I entered the restaurant business as a career changer and wanted to acquire some basic knowledge.

It sounds more like an imposition than a passion...
Absolutely not. The more I learnt the ropes of wine, the greater my joy and passion grew.

Why is that? What fascinates you so much about this topic?
First of all, what thrills me is that it never gets boring. When it comes to wine, many things are constantly changing. For example, the influence of nature, time, and man can pave the way for different results in the grapes of the same vineyard. What is unknown to wine is stagnation.

That probably makes it more complicated to communicate about such a "dynamic" subject to your guests.
It’s actually not that difficult to share your passion for wine with your guests. It already starts with things that are often dismissed as trivialities: for example setting the table with high-quality wine glasses or a proper wine presentation. Even a wine display can immediately convey one’s own high regard for wine to the guests.

Once you’ve given guests an insight into your own appreciation of wine, what matters when it comes to wine consultation? Guest preferences, or the dish they are ordering?
The one and the other. Let’s consider guests who absolutely do not drink Sauvignon Blanc due to personal taste. In such cases, my role as a sommelier is to find alternatives, even if the Sauvignon Blanc would complement the dish perfectly.

You say "complement the dish": what needs to be taken into consideration for the ideal food pairing?
When I choose an ideal wine to go with a dish, I think the dish and wine harmony is crucial. In other words, neither should steal the show.

But this implies the need for the wine cellar to be stocked properly. What aspects deserve special attention?
The simplest answer to this question is that you should make sure there is a blend of all. In a nutshell, this means you should include evergreen wines and wines for special occasions: some uncomplicated and some sophisticated. But most importantly, you should stock your cellar with wines that will be drunk sooner or later.

And what is your favorite type of wine?
My absolute favorite wines are Pinot Noirs. On the one hand, they are incredibly multifaceted, but on the other hand, they are greatly adaptable and can pair with all sorts of meals.
© Photo: IDM/Vini Alto Adige/Marion Lafogler
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