Birgitta Quendler and her husband Michael run Die Mühlenhelle in Gummersbach, Germany (1 Michelin star, 15 GaultMillau points). Michael is in charge of the kitchen and Birgitta is the wine specialist.
Her cellar is stocked with around 650 different wines. They are widely varied, but she does have a particular love of German and Austrian wines – how could it be otherwise if you have an Austrian husband? They have a tasting room, the vinothek, which is also used for private dining for up to 10 people. Birgitta says she gets her love of wine from her father. ‘He’s also a huge wine enthusiast, with a well-stocked wine cellar,’ she says. ‘And my grandfather had a vineyard in Hungary. My father would often go out to dinner with business associates. I was an only child and was allowed to come along to the restaurants.
I was enchanted by the atmosphere. Everyone was friendly and there was always music, often a pianist. During my training, I still knew very little about wine. I would know all about the dishes, but if I got a question about wine, my knowledge was too limited. Because I was always hoping they wouldn’t ask about the wine, it made sense to learn more. In the end I became captivated. I read stacks of books about wine, learned everything I could, and of course also tasted a lot. It wasn’t long before a colleague told me about the Baden Sommeliers Competition. I was 20 and still in training, but nevertheless, I was signed up, along with an experienced sommelier, my colleague and actually my superior. Much to my delight, I came first, and my colleague finished somewhere in the rear. That gave me a huge boost. From then on, I knew I was on the right track.’