A DWWA judge since 2015, Stefan has spent the majority of his career in the world of Michelin-starred restaurants, and is now an independent wine consultant based in London.
In our exclusive interview with the Decanter World Wine Awards’ newest Regional Chair, find out who Stefan’s biggest inspirations are, his thoughts on wines from Switzerland, which wines you should discover in 2022 and more…
Tell us a little about yourself – how did you get into wine?
Pure coincidence to be honest. In 2003 I was lucky enough to try a 50-year-old Riesling; I was just 18 years old. It ignited a drive and passion to learn more about this wonderful liquid, and ever since, the learning has continued. I think will never stop.
What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned while working in the wine industry?
Listen to your guests, colleagues, and friends. It sounds so simple, but it’s an almost lost value in today’s highly digitalised world. Only when I understand and respect other peoples’ opinions can I deliver something exceptional in return, may it be a service, advice or friendship.
Who has been your biggest inspiration during your wine career?
I can’t give this credit to a single person. There has been invaluable career advice from Dimitri Leivadas and Isa Bal MS. I’m certainly grateful to Alexander Koblinger MS who was “brave” enough to give me my first job as a sommelier, and the opportunity to spread my wings would have not been possible without the trust of Mark Hastings. All the above, plus many more who have equally inspired and supported me.
As the new Regional Chair for Switzerland, what do you find most interesting or exciting about wines from Switzerland?
The sheer diversity of grape varieties, styles and the fact that so many wines are still unchartered territory in the world of fine wine.
Which wine-producing areas do you think should be given more attention in 2022?
Greece as a country is an almost unstoppable force, and being Austrian, I have to mentioned the sheer amount of beautiful wines coming from Styria.
What advice do you have for new people just starting out in wine?
Taste as much as you can, write tasting notes even if simple, and ask for help. The wine community may be very intimidating to start off with, but so many of us have a big heart.
Which wines are you drinking at home at the moment?
I’ve started an Instagram series, “1 wine at a time”, where I give as much information as I can in 3 minutes, which means my home selection is widely spread. From Polish orange wine to Australian Shiraz and of course, some Grüner Veltliner, there’s a bit of everything.
Finally, as a DWWA judge since 2015, what do you like most about judging at the Decanter World Wine Awards?
My fellow tasters and the greatness of openly sharing knowledge, insights and having a good laugh here and there. The only beverage I know which manages to bring so many great people under one roof is wine. So, thank you Decanter.
More about Stefan Neumann MS
Stefan Neumann MS is an independent wine consultant based out of London. Stefan has spent the majority of his career in the world of Michelin-starred restaurants, the most recent position as the director of wine for Michelin two-star Dinner by Heston Blumenthal.
His comprehensive experience includes working for restaurants The Fat Duck in Bray, Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Oxford, Restaurant Hotel Obauer in Salzburg, and Steirereck in Vienna.
Stefan Neumann was first a DWWA judge in 2015 and gained his Master Sommelier qualification in 2017.