MARLO MEETS: STEFAN NEUMANN
We mark the return of Marlo Meets by talking to Master Sommelier and Former Head Sommelier of Dinner by Heston, Stefan Neumann.
After starting his career working as a sommelier at Heston's famous Fat Duck in Bray, Stefan joined the two Michelin star restaurant Dinner by Heston in 2013 and became head sommelier there in 2015. Stefan has an enormous passion for wine and has been a judge at numerous competitions, including the Decanter World Wine Awards where six winning wines can be purchased on the Marlo website. The six wines can be found here.
We find out from Stefan what it was like working under Heston, what inspired him to become a master sommelier and what his favourite dish at the Fat Duck is.
1. What was your inspiration to become a master sommelier?
It’s the journey I got so hocked on. Trying to pass an exam which seems so hard to begin with does shape you as a person. Failing is part of process and learning from your own mistakes even more. Getting closer every year to pass one of the world’s toughest exams and to see yourself grow is highly motivating.
2. What was it like working under the genius that is Heston Blumenthal?
A lot of fun, besides it challenges you to look at everything more than once (actually a hundred times) and every time with a different angle. Its eye opening, challenging yet so rewarding.
3. If you could have dinner with four people, dead or alive, who would they be, and which restaurant would you take them too?
My grandfather, who has never seen my love for wine. He passed away when I was 14.
Rihanna, she can sort out the music. Winston Churchill, so I don’t have to worry about the drinks. And last but not least - you, answering all these questions makes me want to know more about you,
I wouldn’t take them to a restaurant. My dining table is big enough and I love entertaining people at my home.
4. What was your favourite dish at Dinner by Heston, and which wine would you pair it with?
Can’t beat an old time classic – the Meat fruit. A chicken liver parfait encased in a Mandarin jelly served with a josper-smoked bread on the side. Try this with a Sauternes, like the 2008 Castelnau du Suduiraut which takes on another dimension given its age. The smokiness of the bread works so well with the delicate sweetness of the wine.
5. Is there one wine in the world that has eluded you thus far, either professionally or personally?
I would love to drink a 1984 Grange, maybe one of the very few wines of my birth year which doesn’t belong into a salad dressing.
6. If you were on Desert Island Discs, what would your luxury be?
My wife – having family and or a life partner is the greatest luxury, even better if she comes with a fridge full of Salon Champagne - hydration is very important.
7. Which region excites you the most in terms of young winemakers trying new things?
More a country than a region. Seeing the upcoming generation or new wave of young Greek winemakers is exciting. Its incredible to see what modern Greek wine tastes like. Their heritage of local varieties helps them to express something truly special. For example, Dafni form Crete from a producer called Lyrarakis.
8. Did working alongside the unique dishes of The Fat Duck help you evolve as a sommelier?
Oh yes, when you are being faced matching a salmon which has been poached in liquorish served with artichoke and vanilla mayonnaise you realise that the rule book is pretty much out of the window. I loved experimenting what might work and finding a great paring is one thing, but seeing the joy in your guests smile and reaction makes it all worth the while.
9. What ambitions do you still have?
Knowledge sharing is something important to me and therefore helping upcoming talents for their career development in the world of wine. I want to debug and demystify wine and the sommelier profession, by creating content that is accessible to the wider public through my own channels, social media, videos, website and many more to come.
Most importantly – be happy with what I have.
Lastly, becoming the new James Bond – that might be a bit too ambitious but the first step to success is believing in it.
10. What's in store for the rest of 2021?
Having launched my website under stefanneumann.co.uk coupled with my hospitality consultancy company is taking a lot of time but working on various projects all related to wine is highly exciting. Did anyone mention a charity event later this year? Stay tuned.