Updated: Apr 6, 2021
Source: Konstantin Baum
Master of Wine (MW) is a qualification (not an academic degree) issued by The Institute of Masters of Wine in the United Kingdom. The MW qualification is generally regarded in the wine industry as one of the highest standards of professional knowledge. Join us to meet each Master of Wine in our monthly Masters of Wine interview. We hit of with our first Master of Wine: Konstantin Baum. Konstantin runs the innovative online retail company meinelese.de, importing artisanal wines from Europe and distributing them throughout Germany. His mission is to "make the world taste better“ – improving the selection of wine in the on- and off-trade and improving the ability of people to taste and appreciate wine.
Your mission is to "make the world taste better“ how do you fulfill this mission?
I'm fulfilling this mission basically by doing several different things. On the one hand, make sure the right products and market are available for people. I've got my own online retail business. I'm always looking for new exciting stuff, that gets imported through my company to the market. And then sold here. So that's one thing. The other thing is, really making sure people ''know'' how to taste wine and what to look out for. I get inspired to taste new stuff, and I'm doing different things in order to do that. One thing is running the wine program for Brenners Park in Baden-Baden. One of the best hotels in the world. I'm picking exciting wines for their wine list. And making sure they know what they are selling. The other bit would be my duties as the ambassador for the California Wine Institute. I travel around Europe and educate people about the wines of California. I'm doing the same thing for other companies and other organizations as well. I educate people on all aspects of the wine world. One could say that the only thing that is missing is making my own wine. This is something that might come up in the future but right now I'm just home brewing and making a little bit of wine for myself and my cellar. But one day I will make my own wine. That is something for the future.
You run the wine program of one of the best Hotels in the World – the BrennersPark-Hotel in Baden-Baden. What are the wines which are important to put on a hotel menu?
I think, what is important, is that the menu has a very different concept than other wine lists do. I always think that most wine lists look like telephone books with names and numbers and that's pretty much it. This is a huge missed opportunity, for restaurants in general! I think a wine list should tell a story. That is why I've put together a shortlist for the Brenners Park Hotel. Which is build and put together like a magazine, with regular changing text and articles. Very comprehensive information which is listed. So people who are coming to the restaurant get a lot of information from the wine list to start with. But the other important aspect we need to consider is the kitchen, the way the food is prepared. There's a lot of stuff that is coming from the grill. So we obviously need some wines which go well with that. Which are in general richer, more concentrated, and red wines. With a lot of tannins. We sell a lot of Bordeaux wines. But I also wanted to have the regions represented in the wine lists. I always make sure we have a comprehensive selection of different wine styles from all of the main and major, high-quality producers. The other thing is also is, that I'm not working in the restaurant. So i'm always open to suggestions from the staff. From the people who are serving the wines. To make sure they feel represented on the wine list as well. It's important that making sure the quality of the wine fits, but if someone has found a great wine and suggests the wine to me. I'm always trying to I get the wine included.
You were the youngest MW graduated in your time. Did you had an advance on other MW’s?
Well, I'm still the youngest MW in Germany (ever) to graduate from the program. But did I have an advance? I don't know! I didn't grow up in a wine region. And my parents weren't in the wine trade, so I didn't have an advance on that perspective. But I got interested in wine early at the age of twenty. Really interested! And I worked in all the sectors of the wine world. I did my apprenticeship as a restaurant specialist. And used the summer to do the second during my work at the hotel. I got my first sommelier position in a star restaurant in Dublin and then worked in a winery in New Zealand for a bit and then studied enology in business. So I made sure that I got to know the insides of the wine industry all around the world. That helped me, I think, in the end. But I didn't get an advance I think. It was just more that I worked hard to get it. I was lucky as well. That is always a part of everything you do.
Source: Konstantin Baum
What are your duties as an ambassador for the California Wine Institute in Europe?
I'm working with the head of the California Wine Institute in Europe. Paul Molleman, who is based in the Netherlands. He and his colleague Marco, they organize all of the tastings and the events and the different markets. So I show up and give different presentations and seminars for people from the trade and sommeliers who want to learn more about the wines of California. We are doing California Wine weeks for restaurants we encourage them to have more wines of California to put on their wine list. And normally I'm traveling all around Europe doing seminars and different markets. Now, most of it is online. We try to reach people, even in the most difficult times, through Zoom and Instagram Live sessions and all of kind that stuff.
Can you tell us more about the The Future 50 Awards you received?
The Future 50 Awards was a great honor for me. It is an award for people under 40 who show great promise in the drink business. It isn't just an award for the wine industry but also to the Sake and spirit industry. And it's in particular a great honor because it's organized by the two greatest organizations in the wine world: WSET and the International Spirit Competition. So they picked me as one of the Future 50 people. So that is a great, great award! I'm very happy that I have received it. And it also gives me a good reason to continue to work hard because I don't want to let them down. I want to make sure that they have the feeling in 10 years that they still picked the right guy.
Who’s your favorite wine influencer and why?
I'm not a big fan of the word ''influencer'' because I, do quite lot of stuff on social media and I'm not trying to ''influence'' people even though I probably do influence some things. I'm more a storyteller. I kinda want people to understand what the wine industry is and how exciting it is to be a part of the wine industry.The favorite person to do it... hmm, I'm struggling there haha... I actually think about Robert Parker. I think he is not highly regarded as he should be, but I think his palette is extra ordinary good. He might have had a taste of a certain type of wine, we all do, and what he did though is that he made wine more accessible to many, many people. And that is something extraordinary! So he would be one on my list. And the first person I looked up to is Hugh Johnson, and he is definitely awesome. So amongst those people I currently, Jancis Robinson is the person that does an amazing job. She is very knowledgeable and she's really making sure that the wine industry becomes more knowledgeable too. Here you go, 3 wine influencers! Old wine influencers though ;)
Source: Konstantin Baum
Can you tell us more about the Virtual Wine Tour?
The Virtual Wine Tour was organized by the German Wine Institute and it's been quite an amazing event. 22 different online events, tasting wines from 88 different wineries. And there were I think, well, a few thousand participants tuning in. So it was quite interesting.
Do you think we need to go more ''virtual'' if it comes to wine events?
I'm pretty sure that this will be continuing. I think there will be fewer virtual events in the future, as soon Covid is under control. But I think there will be more than before 2020. So a lot of wineries realized it's possible to connect with people online and they will continue to do, certain tasting on Instagram, Zoom, or whatever in order to keep their customers entertained and reach a wider audience. And I'm pretty sure that this trend will continue.
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