To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Decanter World Wine Awards, we're profiling a number of this year's judges, who are some of the world's most renowned wine experts. Our 'Meet the Judges' interview series offers a rare insight into the world of wine and judging from the key industry experts deciding this year's best wines.
Ulf Sjodin MW was Sweden’s first Master of Wine, although he was originally a chemist. Here Decanter finds out about why he made the career switch, his most memorable moments working with wine and which wines he’s currently drinking at home…
Tell us a little about yourself – where are you based and where do you work?
I’m based in Stockholm, working at the Swedish monopoly Systembolaget. As Head of Category Management, I’m head of a group of 4 Category Managers responsible for the full assortment of wines, spirits and beers – 460 million litres in total.
Tell us a bit about your expertise and how you got into wine?
I’ve been working with wines and spirits since 1996, first as an importer, then as an independent consultant on pricing and market analysis, and since 2010 at my current position. I was originally a chemist, but switched from the forest industry to wine since I was much more passionate about wine than about wood. I’ve always been looking to increase my knowledge, and in 2002 I got my WSET Diploma with honours, and in 2007 I became the first Master of Wine in Sweden, when I also received the award for best tasting paper and best total result in the MW exam.
What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned while working in the wine industry?
That good wine can be found all over the world, and that every question has at least two different answers that are both equally true.
What are your most memorable wine moments from the last ten years?
A tasting of 1982 first growths at La Mission Haut Brion, during an MW lunch in 2010; a surprisingly impressive setup of 1940s clarets at a friend’s house in 2008; the high quality levels of Burgundy 2010 and 2011 at a recent week in the cellars of Côte d’Or, and Central Otago Pinot Noir on a trip in 2009.
Which kinds of wines do you think should be given more attention in 2013?
Old Vine cuvées from Chile, Eastern Europe and other places where the craftsmanship of fine wine making has been a little forgotten over the years.
Which wines are you drinking at home at the moment?
I’m into Burgundy right now, but I’m changing all the time.
Is there a strong wine scene in your city?
Yes, Stockholm is a place where there is always a lot of talk about wine, although the on-trade fine dining is a bit lost in natural wines at the moment.
What’s your desert island wine?
What single piece of advice do you have for people just starting out in wine?
Go to tastings and try to understand the business reality for all the wines you taste – you’ll form a better understanding of the whole wine business.
When judging, what are you looking for in great wine?
Balance and complexity, and an intensity that gives the wine a personality.
Finally, what are you looking forward to most about judging at the Decanter World Wine Awards?
Meeting other judges and being able to discuss the finer parts of quality assessment.
Written by Decanter.com
Ulf Sjödin MW is a judge at the Decanter World Wine Awards (DWWA).