German-born Tobias Brauweiler, 29, recently achieved the highest score in the Court of Master Sommelier's advanced exams. The head sommelier and wine buyer at the Mantis Collection hotel, Ellenborough Park in Cheltenham, told Janet Harmer all about it
Congratulations on your recent achievement. How did you prepare for the exam? It took 18 months of preparation. I've been involved in the opening of Ellenborough Park since September 2010, which did not allow much time for studying, so I had to get the books out at night or early in the morning.
How and when did you start to work with wine? It was while I was working in Frankfurt, where I was surrounded by some of the best German wine regions. I started visiting vineyards, and helped with the harvesting, pressing, fining and bottling, as well as making good winemaker friends. Inspiration comes from not just the product, but also from the innovative winemakers who never stop experimenting .
Is your position at Ellenborough Park your first head sommelier role? No, I was previously head sommelier in South Africa at the Grand Roche for two years, which ironically won an award for the best wine list in South Africa 2010, one month after I left.
What have you tried to achieve in creating the wine list at Ellenborough Park? It has been challenging being new to the UK. Initially I covered most of the major wine regions and grape varieties, taking advice from my main suppliers who know the Cotswolds better than I do. Now I am adding regions like Languedoc, Douro or the Pfalz, countries such as Greece and Portugal, as well as extending the range of Spanish and Italian wines.
How do you inspire young people to be interested in wine? If someone wants to become a sommelier - which is the best thing in the world because you get to taste the best stuff first - make sure you listen and learn from your mentor.
What are the key attributes of a great sommelier? Honesty, dedication, motivation, knowledge and an instinct for sales.