Welcome to Pro-Sips, a series sharing pro-tips from sommeliers and wine experts! There’s so much to learn and explore within the world of German wine – 13 distinct regions offering numerous wine varieties in a range of styles – so to help you get started, we’re bringing wine wisdom from the pros straight to you.
Alicia Barrett’s German Wine Pro-Tips
We interviewed Alicia Barrett, Wine Educator for Binny’s Beverage Depot, the largest wine and spirits retailer in the Midwest.
Alicia became fascinated by wine while living in Europe and has gravitated towards Old World wines ever since. Along with her role as Wine Educator at Binny’s, Alicia is a WSET educator for the American Wine School, serves as the Chicago educator for the U.S. Champagne Bureau, and holds monthly wine seminars at the Alliance Française de Chicago. She completed her WSET Diploma in 2020 and was formerly a sommelier at the InterContinental Hotel – Chicago.
Connect with Alicia on Instagram at @aliciabarrett12 and read her Pro-Sips below!
Q1: How or why did you get into the wine industry, and at what point were you introduced to German wine?
Like many in wine, I had a circuitous route to my current role. I was working for an economic think tank in London when I took a trip to Burgundy and decided to study wine upon my return. A combination of spending six years in politics and a week in Meursault drinking more Chardonnay than I’d ever consumed before sealed the deal – I wanted to work in wine!
Fortunately, I was introduced to German wine early on. German wines were well represented on wine lists of some of the best restaurants in London and it didn’t take long to understand why.
Q2: In your opinion, what sets German wines apart from other country’s or region’s wines?
Acidity, precision and food pairing diversity. For anyone who loves high acid wines, Germany is heaven on earth. The refreshing acidity and precise winemaking enable lengthy bottle aging and dramatic evolution of aromas and flavors. The best examples are simply ethereal. Additionally, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a dish you can’t pair with a German wine. Seriously, please try.
Q3: What is one of the most exciting trends or changes you’ve seen within German wine over the years?
Spätburgunder, hands down. I’m thrilled to see the increase in both volume and quality of German Pinot Noir. More and more are hitting our shelves and the value for money is outstanding.
Q4: What are some tips you can share for wine lovers to keep in mind when shopping for German wine? What are some of your favorite spots for German wine in Chicago?
Don’t leave the aisle because you don’t understand the label. Ask for help! As someone who works in retail, I can assure you that staff love to be asked for assistance. Even better, ask them for their recommendations! They want to share their passion for wine; it’s why they work there. Once you find a style and region you enjoy (e.g. Kabinett Riesling from the Mosel, dry Riesling from the Rheingau or Pinot Noir from Baden), explore other producers in the region making that same style.
I, of course, recommend shopping at our stores for an incredible German wine selection, but if you’re dining out, one of my favorite spots in Chicago is Funkenhaussen.
Q5: Finally, for all the wine lovers out there, what’s your favorite pro-sip about wine that more people should know?
Please stop drinking the same wine. Life is too short. Rather than buy a case of one wine, try buying a mixed case. Wine is an expression of place, time and human stewardship. Enjoy the journey.