20 Feb 2023

Interview with Michael Kugel

Michael Kugel, Consultant and Coach, Kassel

What makes the topic of wine special for you and where does this fascination come from?

At the age of just 26, I started my own business and became a wine wholesaler. As I learned about the business, marketing and target groups were the focus – more so than the wine. It was only later, when I started travelling to different regions, that something changed in me. The cultural landscapes, the special climates, the cuisine of these regions and, of course, the people behind the wines showed me that everything works in harmony. Every region, every wine and every producer all have an individual story. I think it is this that still touches me today and continues to be endlessly fascinating.

What is your favourite European wine?

It’s virtually impossible to name a "favourite" wine. For the last 30 years, I‘ve been saying that life is about trying new things and I love making new discoveries. That’s why a "favourite" wine would be one that I can tell other people about with passion and enthusiasm. I also like a wine that surprises me – maybe a discovery on a wine trip or the company in which I can enjoy it. Obviously, the company is important, as I do not drink wine alone.

With so many European wine regions to choose from - do you have a favourite?

My response would be similar to the "favourite wine" question. I want to try lots of new things. However, there are a few regions that I fall back on when choosing something special for a celebration, for example. For sparkling wine, it's the Loire, for red wine, I like the Rhône Valley, and I enjoy whites from northern Italy.

Which wine-growing region in Europe is currently on the up?

I was in Croatia last year (not by the sea but in Zagreb and the surrounding area) and enthusiastically tasted and got to know quite a few wines. I also sampled new wines during a specialist study trip through Switzerland, but not many are available to buy. This year I am planning a wine trip to Georgia and am already very excited about what I may discover. In northwestern Poland (south of Szczecin), an organic Riesling surprised me. I am very interested in what is happening in the "cool north" too. Climate change and new grapevine varieties make it possible that viticulture will become an option in regions where hardly anyone has thought of it so far. Here, I would like to see Piwi varieties gain traction too.

You coach employees from the hospitality and retail industries on all aspects of wine, but also on topics such as "Dealing well with customers/guests" and "Appreciative communication". So which topics are currently the most popular?

Good manners and appreciative communication in business have never gone out of fashion. I’ve been involved in "hospitality" for 10 years and the attitude we adopt when we play the role of host is crucial. When hosts see their customers as "guests", the interpersonal interaction is always appreciated. My role as a trainer is to develop such interactions into workable forms of behaviour which can then be successfully applied in the workplace.

You are an advisory board member of EUROVINO, which will take place for the first time in 2024: Why is EUROVINO relevant as a new trade fair format?

Times have been changing for a while, with the era of "navel-gazing" gradually coming to an end. There is now no such thing as "business as usual“, and bigger, cheaper offerings are not the way forward.

EUROVINO at the Karlsruhe trade fair location will focus on the product and the exchange surrounding it. In this context, sustainability and economic efficiency are not a contradiction, but rather the "heart and soul" of the event. I think exhibitors will find it easy to participate in the trade fair thanks to a fair price/performance ratio and a transparent cost structure. Very good general conditions allow for flexible planning too. We’re looking forward to getting to know vintners who have thus far never exhibited at such an event.

Such clear and open communication will allow visitors to use the exhibition as a meeting place, where they can have meaningful discussions and make useful new contacts.

What are you particularly looking forward to with regard to EUROVINO 2024?

Sustainability is the next big topic for our industry. What this means for the sector will be in evidence at EUROVINO, and I‘m pleased about that. But I'm also looking forward to Karlsruhe, a weloming city within easy reach of several growing regions. I like the beautiful, modern exhibition center too. As co-organizer of the Fair Wine Award, I am of course also very pleased that we will be able to reveal the winners at EUROVINO.

Michael Kugel

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