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.
Brent Kroll’s German Wine Pro-Tips
Brent was named a 2018 Food & Wine Sommelier of the Year and a Rising Star by StarChefs.com in 2014. He has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Washingtonian, The Washington Post, Wine & Spirits, Wine Enthusiast, Wine Spectator and more.
Prior to opening Maxwell in June 2017, Brent oversaw 16 wine programs for the Neighborhood Restaurant Group where he designed the wine program of the newly reopened Iron Gate, a historic landmark that was once the longest operating restaurant in D.C. In 2015, Iron Gate was awarded Wine Program of the Year by the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington, Top Wine Program in the D.C. region by DC Modern Luxury and was also recognized as one of the Best Wine Restaurants in America by Wine Enthusiast. In addition, Brent created the wine lists for other local restaurants, including Hazel and The Partisan.
Before coming on the scene in D.C., Brent helped open the Michael Mina Group’s Saltwater at the MGM Grand in Detroit, worked at the Fairmont Turnberry Country Club in Miami and took his first head sommelier position at Casa Tua in South Beach.
Connect with Brent on Instagram at @B2Kroll and read his 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 entered the wine industry as a broke business student in college. I needed to wait tables for income. I cracked fine dining at an early age in Detroit when a restaurant I worked at in the mall closed and I was transferred from a good reference. I remember being way younger than everyone and the only server not old enough to drink. Madeline Triffon, “Detroit’s First Lady of
Wine,” was the wine director and she allowed me to do inventory and smell wines at lineup. I was given the section by the bathrooms very frequently and when I asked my GM about it, he said that I was a wine liability. It lit a fire under me, and I started studying wine as much as business. Madeline had a list where you could be confident in everything you recommended, and she always made sure there were good German offerings, especially by the half bottle to get them in front of people. She was always conscious of value, and I learned that German wines often had that going for them on top of quality.
Q2: What is your favorite German wine and food pairing, and why? Or, what is an unusual German wine and food pairing you’ve tried that really works?
My favorite German wine pairing is Schnitzel and Riesling Sekt. It’s not rocket science here. Fried food and bubbles are a great match. The ones that show more stone fruit are even better to play off the savory notes in the dish. I could eat this every day or throw a party based on it.
Q3: What German wine variety or style do you think deserves more attention and why?
Spätburgunder. Pinot Noir gets plenty of attention but not really German Pinot Noir. Burgundy is becoming less and less of a value and with the 2019 vintage, it will get even worse. Germany has the temperatures Burgundy had 20 to 30 years ago. Germany makes some of the best Pinot Noir in the world and they are built to drink or age, depending on your preference.
Q4: What is one of the most exciting trends or changes you’ve seen within German wine over the years?
I think the obvious one here is the shift to emphasizing the quality of Grosses Gewächs. The diversity in grapes also comes to mind. I’m most excited about the quality renaissance in Rheinhessen. Everyone knows Keller, but that’s just the start. There’s Seehof, Seebrich, Wittmann and many others. This is the region to catch everyone off guard in the coming vintages.
Q5: Finally, for all the wine lovers out there, what’s your favorite pro-sip about wine that more people should know?
Keep an open mind. Most of what people say about wine is a rule of thumb. Know there are almost always exceptions to the rule.