Well, that's what Kurt Tucholsky thought, anyway. But when you see how lovingly sommeliers Claudia Fath and Hermann Lankmaier handle the treasures in the excellent wine cellar of the BURG, then you would probably be inclined to agree with the poet. We asked the two to tell us a little about their job in general, and their secret wine preferences in particular.
I'm a newcomer to wine, and I'm looking for a good glass of something in the BURG's wine cellar. What would you recommend? Where's a good place to start?
Hermann Lankmaier: It's best to start with an Austrian white, perhaps a light, sweet Muscatel from southern Styria, or a light Grüner Veltliner from the Wachau, the Kamptal or the Kremstal ...
It's early February – is there anything in the Burg cellar that goes particularly well with the time of the year?
Claudia Fath: A Grüner Veltliner, probably the medium-strong variety for winter, would be typically Austrian. But not with too much fruit or acid, and most definitely not too oaky.
What actually makes a good wine?
HL: It has to be made cleanly and honestly, be harmonious and round, and possess a certain level of maturity ... but above all, it simply has to taste good.
CF: It must be fun to drink, a wine you'd be happy to have another glass of, and another bottle of if you're with friends ...
What was the most exceptional wine you've ever had, or to put it differently: your most unforgettable wine experience?
HL: If I had to choose one, then I'd say a barrel tasting at Niepoort’s in Portugal, who have been making port for five generations – we had the great good fortune to sample a vintage port of 1863 ...
CF: The trips with the Club de Sommeliers Arlberg have always been the most impressive, and I'd like to thank my boss, Gerhard Lucian, for accepting me in it. We've actually been to every continent together, including Australia, Argentina and Chile. In Europe, I've been lucky enough to get to know Italy, to explore Bordeaux and Burgundy, discover Portugal … and one particularly happy memory is of a vertical tasting of Sassicaia at the Burg Hotel.
Do a big name or high price affect the enjoyment?
CF: To me as a sommelier, “big names” are not important. However, as our guests know what a good cellar we have, some come to us with a food guide app because they want something particular. They could be looking for a specific vintage by Chateau Palmer or the legendary Singerriedel 2015 by Franz Hirtzberger or Admiral and Mystique by Pöckl on Lake Neudsiedl.
How much can a wine cost and still be fun?
HL: My personal pain threshold if I'm having a normal private meal would be at the €100 mark. But if you're meeting up with fellow wine-lovers, then the price can easily go up ...
Do you have a favourite wine-growing region?
HL: In Austria, that would be southern Styria and the Wachau. Internationally, I'm most impressed by Tuscany and Burgundy, both for whites and for reds.
CF: The Kremstal and the Kamptal, not least because of all the personal associations.
What does a wine have to "do" to make it into the BURG's cellar?
HL: It has to convince us, regardless of whether it's a "classic" or a new discover ...
How many wines – roughly – do you think you've tasted during your career as a sommelier? How much money do you effectively have to "drink" before you can be said to have at least some idea about wine?
HL: Well, this is really a pretty rough figure… I've been a sommelier for 25 years now, and during that time I've visited plenty of vineyards and made the acquaintance of their cellars, done barrel tastings, been to wine fairs where you can try between 300 and 400 different wines. Say 1500 wines a year over 25 years, and you're looking at a pretty impressive figure (laughs)
CF: Lots and lots of them ...
What was your last purchase for private consumption?
HL: Something from the Bordeaux or a Kollwentz… I'm not too sure any more.
CF: Grüner Veltliner Hölle (Topf vineyard), vinified by the up-and-coming oenologists Hans-Peter and Maximilian, a Ruinart Rosé Champagne, and a Blaufränkisch by Prieler.
If you could go on a wine trip, money no object, where would you go to?
HL: Somewhere quite classic: Burgundy or Bordeaux.
CF: To Germany, to the Moselle or the Rheingau, and maybe to the Saar. And most definitely to Bulgaria and Romania ... they're new countries, and there are plenty of new things to try.
Your "desert island" wines – red, white, sparkling, and "orange" too, of course, if you like?
HL: No questions: the Honivogl from the Hitzberger vineyard. I know this wine; I've been going there for the harvest for 15 years now, and I always take it with me on my travels. It's been to Key West, to San Diego and to Australia – in the big bottle version, of course! ...
CF: A Sauvignon, but no, not from France, please. My choice would be the Sauvignon Zieregg 09 by Tement.
Claudia Fath, BURG sommelier
Hermann Lankmaier, Falstaff sommelier of the year 2013
Burg wine cellar