Talented, successful and outspoken – Star Wine List sat down for a chat with Christian Jacobsen, sommelier and co-owner at the two wine-focused restaurants Anarki and Mêlée in Copenhagen.
Christian Jacobsen was more or less born into wine. Both his parents were chefs and ran a restaurant when Christian grew up. Then his interest in wine really kicked off when he worked as a waiter at a hotel his father was managing.
”No one was really taking care of the wine cellar, so I quite quickly jumped into it and learned my way around by reading and tasting,” Christian says.
Fast forward to current day Copenhagen and Christian Jacobsen is one of Denmark's top sommeliers. Before Anarki and Mêlée he worked at MASH and he has competed at the highest level for a long time, becoming Danish sommelier champion in 2013 and 2015, Nordic champion in 2011 and finishing sixth in the World Championship 2016.
What is your number one rule to live by in hospitality?
”Simply to not forget the essence of hospitality, which people sadly often do. When people go to your restaurant it may be to have a culinary experience, but it’s more likely to enjoy the company of their friends, family or business partners. Don’t let it be about you, let it be about them. Leave your ego at home.
What is the philosophy behind your wine lists at Mêlée and Anarki?
”Anything good, moving, upcoming, classical, fun, natural or rare. Quality and originality are the only parameters and the list should have the guts to take on producers and wines that may not be well-recognized. If we like the wine, we’ll make room for it. ”
Do you have any general advice for your guests when it comes to choosing wine?
”Don’t be afraid to ask for advice. We know our métier and we would like to make use of it to give you the best possible experience. Also, make the effort to learn your own taste. Take notice when you like something and when you don’t, and try to remember it in any which way that you can. ”
How do you think Copenhagen compares to other cities for drinking wine?
”Copenhagen is a pretty boring place to drink wine in my opinion. Too much ego & too little good, honest and fairly priced wine. A lot of people will argue with me on that, but that is how I experience it. There are certainly good places to go for food and wine, no doubt, but I am rarely surprised. It is pretty much all the obvious stuff in all the obvious places. ”
Where would you travel for the best wine experiences?
Well, all the obvious places and then some. I would travel to Piemonte any day of the week for the Nebbiolo, Freisa and Arneis, pasta, truffles and carne crudo – a place where the food and the wines are completely in synch. I went to Boston a year ago and they stunned me by their openness and undogmatic approach in regards of finding wines to pair with their local seafood. I have never seen so much wine from Greece and the Acores in one place. Something we could learn a great deal from in Copenhagen!
What are your favorite wines at the moment?
”I am drinking a fair amount of red wines from Galicia at the moment especially from Ribeiro and Ribeira Sacra. Mencia rocks but Merenzao, Caino Tinto and Brancellao can be straight up delicious too, and the good thing is that people aren’t really taking notice yet. ”
Which wines are overrated, in your view?
”Anything made for collectors instead of wine drinkers. It saddens me when some of the premium vineyards are being purchased by big conglomerates in order to make ’lifestyle products’ for a select group of wealthy customers.”
Name three important things when creating a solid wine list?
”Value, maturity and depth on specific regions or producers. A great wine list doesn’t have to cover the entire globe. In fact, lists that try to list every corner of the world, and every village in Burgundy, often end up being the most boring and least selective. A wine list that is focused on certain regions and has a certain depth in the listings tends to be more exciting and engaging and as a customer you have to ask yourself ’why do they list thirty wines from Swartland in South Africa and zero from Stellenbosch? Possibly because they know their way around their wines from Swartland and think they have a certain quality.’”
Finally, do you have a favorite wine and food-pairing that guests should not miss?
”Yes – people should get more into sherry in general! It can be used in a variety of ways with any foods rich in salt, fat and umami.”
Check out Christian's wine lists and the restaurants via the links below.
By Rasmus Marquart