Collin Wagner Fell in Love with German Wine—and Never Looked Back

Watch as the Vom Boden sales manager blind tastes a German wine and shares how he came to be an advocate for the country’s wines

Collin Wagner closely inspects a glass of red wine
Collin Wagner finds it easy to pair German wine with most meals. Cover image by Vivian Beltran.

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Collin Wagner is the New York and New Jersey sales manager at Vom Boden, a German wine import company. He began his journey in fine-dining kitchens, where he first started tasting high-quality wines. “I quite quickly caught the bug,” says Wagner. Soon, he started reading wine books with a glass in hand. “The best way to learn [is by] contextualizing a place and its grapes and winemakers in close succession in order to pay attention to the differences,” he says.

From there, Wagner upped his wine education by working harvests abroad. “I did my first harvest in 2011 in the Rhône, and after doing two harvests in Germany—first in 2013 with Clemens Busch and the second in 2017 with Stein—I was pretty firmly team Germany,” says Wagner. 

It was just a matter of time before Wagner set his sights on working with a wine portfolio like Vom Boden’s. “I began pestering Stephen Bitterolf of Vom Boden to give me a job,” says Wagner. “He didn’t think I was up to the task, and indeed I had to relearn how to speak to humans and how to email. But after starting part-time in 2018, I quickly quit my kitchen job, went full-time with Vom Boden, and haven’t looked back since.” 

After shooting the Supertasters video with Wagner, SevenFifty Daily spoke with him about his affinity for German wine.

SevenFifty Daily: What’s the first German wine you ever tried?

Collin Wagner: I don’t believe these were the first German wines I tried, but the first wines that awoke something inside of me: Stein ‘Ohne’ and 1991 Schloss ‘Schönborn Hochheimer Hölle’ Riesling Spätlese.

I tried Stein’s Ohne in 2011 while I was working at Noma. After dinner service was finished, we would finally sit down in the lounge— likely at 2 am—and the leftover wines from the week’s service were open on the bar. Most of the cooks would reach for beers, and I would be having a field day of trying all of the dregs and wines left open. I remember the Riffaults, Trossen, Tschida, other in-vogue natural wines—and a Mosel Riesling. I was confused for sure about the Stein. I knew it was not a typical Mosel Riesling. I could feel there was a rusticity, a soul, an imprint in it that was immediate and made me curious, and I found immense pleasure in it. 

The other indelible memory was from my 21st birthday, where I cooked with some friends and opened a few wines that I had acquired from my birth year: a bottle of 1991 Lopez de Heredia Tondonia Riserva—and a bottle of 1991 Schloss ‘Schönborn Hochheimer Hölle’ Riesling Spätlese. 

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What’s your favorite German wine and food pairing?

That’s hard to say; I have found a Riesling for every dish except red-sauce Italian. But I think aged Spätlese could work. This may sound cheesy, but when I cook old-school German dishes, done very well and with a touch of modernization and lightness, there is something whimsical and, of course, intrinsic about the wines with that dish. Like a warm schnitzel and spätzle made with a board that was gifted to me from a winemaker in the Pfalz. Or better yet, knödel (bread or potato dumplings) in a soul-warming broth, very simply garnished with some mirepoix, parsley, and chives. And maybe it just transports you. 

Why do you love German wine?

Once you start drinking and loving German wine, you never go back. There is no other place on earth that is capable of producing so many styles with such precision—with such lightness, delicacy, freshness, vibrancy, and drinkability—as Germany. It is fun to taste wines from other places in the world, but no other place makes you want to drink the wines as much as Germany.


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