Grape talk: Q&A with Kitt Schroeder
Thursday, 14 October 2010 10:39 Cecile G. Mauricio / Fermentations
It’s “groo-ner felt-lee-ner.” I was getting a lesson in German phonetics from Marina “Kitt” Schroeder in the wine room, among her bottles of Riesling, Grüner Veltiner, Gewürtztrraminer, Blaufränkisch and Zweigelt from producers like Gunderloch, Weininger and Heinrich.
It helps that she knows the language—which comes with being one of the top importers and distributors of German and Austrian wines in the Philippines. Ms. Schroeder runs Brumms Quality Wines Inc. and Lemuria, the restaurant that was born out of her passion for wine. (Where there is good wine, can good food be far behind?) I would see her at wine events looking effortlessly chic, radiating energy. Perhaps, “radiant” is the word that best describes this wine enthusiast who ends her e-mail with quotes like “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the number of moments that take our breath away.” A timely reminder from one who surely embraces life with exuberance.
How/when did you get started in wine?
In the early years (1980s) my husband Klaus brought home bottles of wines from the German cargo vessels calling in the port of Manila, that he serviced as part of his job in the shipping trade. This is how I met Riesling, the great noble grape of Germany. I learned later that the Rieslings at this time were mostly mediocre and suffering from a downgrade in the European market. I also got acquainted with the sparkling wines from South Africa. And there would be the usual bottles of wines from suppliers and friends every Christmastime and birthdays. Not knowing much about wines, I kept inventory stock cards just to keep track.
Which types of wine do you like to drink?
I am partial to white wines. Dry, crisp whites for aperitif (Grüner Veltliner, Chablis) and starters, as well as light fruity styles (unoaked Chardonnay, Riesling Qba) depending on the occasion. Mostly, I enjoy the medium- and full-bodied fruity styles with food.
Do you keep a personal collection? Which are your prized or favorite bottles? Or a special bottle you are going to open for an equally special occasion?
Yes, we keep a modest personal collection and bottles sometimes get sold as I include them on the wine list of Lemuria. To this day, we keep on adding as I find wines of interesting vintages and ratings. The prized bottles that keep me thinking of an excuse to open one day are the Bordeauxs (a few grand crus, a vertical of Château Pavie and the 2001 d’Yquem). Lately, I have been adding cult wines from the New World (verticals from Almaviva, Clos Apalta, for example).
Which are your reliable go-with-everything wines, the ones that for you are flexible food partners?
My choice for wines that are flexible food partners are the great Rieslings from Germany and the Pinot Noirs from New Zealand.
What is the story of Brumms Quality Wines? Why did you become a wine importer and distributor?
It is, indeed, strange that I became a wine importer and distributor during those times when drinking wine in the local scene was relatively unknown and rare even in the most affluent of parties. My travels gave me loads of opportunities to enjoy and immerse myself in the pleasures of drinking wine. And thus sprung the desire to promote the culture of wine in the local market. But selling wines over P300 then was an uphill battle in the midst of Carlo Rossi, Mateus and Mompo. Somewhere along the way, there was a great deal of satisfaction when my market was happily buying, drinking and learning (in that order) about wine together with myself.
How do you choose wines for your portfolio?
The wine portfolio of Brumms Quality Wines Inc. today has come a long way. With the present market evolved and in search of something better than the mass-produced wines on supermarket shelves, I personally choose the wines from the perspective of a consumer. I also look at the balance between individual preferences and the varying levels of purchasing power in my search for wines that inspire and bring the pleasure of food to a higher dimension.
What do you enjoy doing as a wine importer?
My greatest joy as a wine importer is meeting up with customers and friends who express their pleasure and excitement in the wines I have chosen to include on my wine list. This does not happen every day but most often than not this builds up my confidence in my wine selection from one year to the next.
What has been your most memorable (good or bad) wine experience to date?
My most memorable wine experience to date was my visit to Château Haut Brion, a part of the activities when I joined the one-week course in Maison du Vin in Bordeaux. In their presentation, there was the declaration that “God’s best gift to mankind is the vine and from the hands of man came forth His perfection.” From that day on, I was never the same again.