Welcome to Pro-Sips, a series sharing pro-tips from sommeliers and wine experts! There’s so much to learn and explore within the world of German wine – 13 distinct regions offering numerous wine varieties in a range of styles – so to help you get started, we’re bringing wine wisdom from the pros straight to you.
Alisha Blackwell-Calvert’s German Wine Pro-Tips
We interviewed Alisha Blackwell-Calvert, a Certified Sommelier currently working at Cinder House, located on the iconic 8th floor of Four Seasons Hotel in St. Louis, MO. The Wine Enthusiast Magazine “Sommelier/Wine Director of the Year” 2021 nominee has worked several positions within the industry including server, wine representative, and private consultant.
Alisha made a return to the restaurant floor in 2015 to pursue a sommelier career at Reeds American Table followed by Elaia and Olio in 2019. Alisha also enjoys mead production through a collaboration with Bluewood Brewing.
Connect with Alisha on Instagram at @ExquisiteVines and read her Pro-Sips below!
Q1: How or why did you get into the wine industry, and at what point were you introduced to German wine?
I got into the wine industry by having a sense of curiosity. I was intrigued as to why grape varieties tasted differently from region to region – for example, Napa Merlot tastes differently from St.-Emilion – and I had to figure out why. I was fortunate that our restaurant manager at the time, Mandy Monzyk, nurtured my inquisitions. She was the first person in my career to explain botrytis and how it can affect Riesling grapes along the Mosel River. I became fascinated with the region and began to explore Germany’s traditional wines.
Q2: What was your first “wow” German wine moment?
My first “wow” German wine moment was made possible by a bottle of 2008 Emrich-Schönleber “Mineral” Riesling Trocken. My journey started with luscious bottlings from the Mosel, Rheingau, and Rheinhessen. However, “Mineral” completely blew me away with its crisp, laser-like focus of river stone, lemon zest, and freshly picked white peach. This was my first experience with a Riesling from the Nahe, and I will never forget its lingering impression. I was inspired to discover other producers from the region and wasn’t disappointed. Dönnhoff, Schäfer-Fröhlich and many other amazing Nahe producers opened my eyes to so many top sites responsible for making drier Riesling styles that weren’t previously on my radar.
Q3: What German wine variety or style do you think deserves more attention and why?
I think a wine style that deserves more attention is German Sekt. I’m already an advocate for drinking bubbles at every meal, but the Sekt category is produced in a versatile range of German varieties and sweetness levels. You can easily choose a different bottle for every course. Sparkling wine by Diel, Dautel, and Von Winning are in my collection right now!
Q4: What is your favorite German wine and food pairing, and why?
One of my favorite pairings is pan-seared swordfish with German Silvaner. While this white wine’s flavors and aromas lean delicate, its weight is perfect for a more dense, oily fish. Silvaner’s slightly herbaceous quality makes it a great match for notoriously tough-to-pair veggies like artichoke and asparagus. May I also suggest a glass of Lemberger slightly chilled and paired with a roasted beet salad with goat cheese and balsamic? Delicious!
Q5: Finally, for all the wine lovers out there, what’s your favorite pro-sip about wine that more people should know?
Consider the weight and texture of a dish for pro pairing. Depending on preparation and sauces, Salmon and German Pinot Noir are a fantastic match as well as high acid whites with fatty steak. Drink what works best for you.