Star Sommelier

Going 10 Rounds With Sommelier Michaël Engelmann

The associate director of wine for Danny Meyer’s famed Union Square Hospitality Group tackles our speed round of questions.

Courtesy of Liz Clayman

What do you like to drink after a shift? “I definitely have a bottle of water. I drink a lot of water throughout the day, probably close to a gallon. If I have something else, it’s probably a light, crisp beer, like a German pilsner, or a Gin & Tonic.”

What is the all-time best dive bar jukebox song? “‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’ by Def Leppard.”

Name the first good wine you ever drank and where you had it. “I cannot remember the producer but the first wine that really marked my memory was a white Burgundy, a bottle of 1990 Chassagne-Montrachet, at Christmas with my family. I would have been 12 or 14 and I had a couple of sips. I can remember the flavor profile to this day.”

What book on wine, cocktails, spirits or food is your go-to resource? “Depends on the topic; Champagne by Peter Liem. The New Vignerons from Luis Gutiérrez.”

Name the wine region that took you the longest to truly understand. “Everything changes so much all the time. I’ll say that Italy is pretty deep. South Africa made much more sense after I went there last year. I really think that once you get to go there everything makes much more sense.”

What’s your favorite wine and food pairing? “Steak au poivre and a bottle of Cornas or Côte-Rôtie. Also, a big fan of fish & chips and Champagne.”

What’s the most common wine myth you have to debunk? “There are a couple, one that comes to mind is that all Riesling is sweet.”

What’s your favorite bottle of wine under $20? “Guimaro Ribeira Sacra for red. Domaine St Nicolas, Les Clous for white.”

What’s your favorite bottle of wine over $1,000? “A Riesling from Egon Müller, a 1971 Scharzhofberger Auslese.”

What tool do you use to open a bottle? “I have four to five different bottle openers, but the one I go back to the most is a simple Pulltap’s model.”

Michaël Engelmann is the associate director of wine for Danny Meyer’s famed Union Square Hospitality Group, which owns Grammercy Tavern, Union Square Cafe and The Modern, among others. Engelmann was named the best sommelier in America by the American Sommelier Association in 2009.

Interview has been condensed and edited.