Mitte, Berlin, Germany
+49 30 27581215
Germany´s Sommelier of the year 2014.
let´s dive in... From the first glance at Willi, it is easy to feel how approachable he is. He radiates an easygoing vibe that is just devoid of ego. We met in Berlin´s trendy art and food Mitte district, where he fits right in.
Originally from Styria, Austria, Willi grew up in his parents’ inn, leaving for tourism school at a young age. It was there that Willi was first introduced to the great taste of wine. His roommate would always bring along delicious sauvignon; and while everyone else was drinking whiskey-cola, they would sit drinking tooth-rimmed cups of fine wine. It was just for fun at first, but at some point the taste started to catch hold of him. The nuances in every bottle called something new from Willi, and his love for wine was born.
Willi owns Cardoba(r), one of the grooviest wine bars in central Berlin. It is named after the famous FIFA world cup match between Austria and Germany in 1978, where Austria triumphed over Germany for the first time in 47 years. It has become a part of football folklore and is known as “The miracle of Córdoba” throughout Austria. In Germany, though, it is called “The Disgrace of Córdoba”. You can’t please everyone.
And yes, the place is filled with memorabilia from that infamous World Cup match in ’78 (I wer' narrisch!). But it is also brimming with character and class there among the pumping music and dark lights.
Although he does not describe himself as a sommelier, Willi was Germany’s sommelier of the year in 2014. Willi prefers the title Chief Executive Host, and it fits his approach to wine. His take on wine drinking is simple:
Give them a good glass of wine, and make them happy.
Willi believes wine drinking should be a pleasure, not an exacting science or simply following a numbered rank. We agree on this whole-heartedly. Wine is a personal experience; it should be appreciated for the way it tastes and what it makes you feel. At times, a wine’s reputation (or lack thereof) can simply get in the way of its true character. Some of the most famous wines turn into useless hype after the first sip.
Guests should be comfortable; they should trust themselves and their senses at all times. For example, Willi loves a nice chilled Blaufränkisch with Wiener Schnitzel. Some sommeliers would look at him sideways and say “Red wine…and Schnitzel? You have to be kidding.” But that is just what he likes. Now that’s trusting your taste buds.
On the whole, Willi favors German and Austrian wines, but he never forgets Burgundy and the Loire Valley. He is also making important contributions to the renaissance of Moselle wines. You will not find a better list of wines anywhere in Germany. I was taken aback by the high-quality labels and bottles that can be ordered here. At Cordoba(r), high quality does not automatically mean famous or expensive, either. You’ll experience some new names that are the next hot tip in the wine scene here, and it is well worth the trip.
When I asked his take on the “Cork vs Screw Cap” debate, Willi favors the experience of cork. Opening a corked bottle at the table, hearing the pop, smelling the expanding cork – it brings a feeling of heritage and nostalgia to every pour.
Cordoba(r) is primarily a wine establishment, but it quickly became well renowned for its delicious food as well. The roast pork is delicate, juicy, and generous. The crispy crust matches each dip of the juicy sauce perfectly; and neat caraway shoves make the roast pop in the mouth. They kitchen cooks up some wildly creative dishes as well; lamb neck, delectable eggplant, and more.
To close out our evening, Willi had some wonderful words of advice for all wine & spirit lovers. “Believe in your own pallet. Don´t let someone´s status, perceived experience, or lapel pin determine what you should taste or feel. It’s perfectly fine to be guided by those with more experience, but always trust your own taste entirely. Refine it and share your personal experience."
He continued. "If you like the wine, drink it and enjoy it. Wine is not for the high class, it’s for everyone."
Cheers to that, Willi.