Home News > November 2023 > Q&A with Stefan Neumann, Master Sommelier & Wine Consultant

Q&A: Stefan Neumann, Master Sommelier & Wine Consultant

London's hospitality industry would be all the poorer without Stefan Neumann MS. The sommelier turned consultant reflects on life after the pandemic, maximising revenue and an unforgettable wine pairing

You’re one of London’s leading sommeliers – is this a career that was forged by ‘accident’ or design?

A healthy combination of both. What started in 2004 as “let’s give this a try” turned out to be one of the best decisions in my professional life. In a nutshell it’s passion, dedication, mentorship and a bit of luck.

How has your life changed since the pandemic?


Dramatically – I decided to leave a well-paid and equally respected full-time job to start my own business. It was something which was on my mind for a while and the pandemic pressed the fast-forward button for me. It felt like the right time to take on a new challenge and embrace a more entrepreneurial chapter.


You’re now heavily involved in consultancy: do you miss life on the restaurant floor?


I do miss it on some days, but I couldn’t be more grateful to the sommelier/hospitality sector. It has taught me so many skills which are transferable and applicable to other industries. It fulfils me personally and complements me professionally to have seen many sides of our industry. Most importantly, these experiences plus my network are especially valuable to my clients and set me apart.


Alternative food pairings (spirits, etc) are all the rage in some sectors –  your thoughts?


Spirits can absolutely provide the same harmonious partnership to food as wine. It's great to see that this is getting more traction in the press as it has been happening for a while now. From Kombucha to Blanche d’ Armagnac, good sommeliers always have a non-wine alternative up their sleeve, and I reckon that’s why so many sommeliers love their job. There is always something new to learn and therefore to share and delight your guests after.


What would be your advice to a restaurant that wishes to maximise its revenue from wine sales?


On a short term I would start with cost savings, optimisations and maximising your current stock levels. Frequent changes for a by-the-glass selection can swiftly move stock which has been in your inventory too long. Plenty of suppliers offer support programmes with free Coravin or other preservation systems which can drastically reduce your wastage. Lastly, reducing glassware breakages can be a powerful tool. All it needs is a five-minute training on how to proper polish a glass.


Finally: your most memorable food & wine pairing?


I can’t narrow it down to one pairing as it was the whole experience at Aponiente by Angel León in Puerto de Santa Maria. The so-called “chef of the sea” created a menu with aromas and flavours I have never seen before, all paired with delightful Champagne from a rather well-known stable. Thank you Oliver Krug.