Talking Wine With...

Talking Wine With...

Paula Redes Sidore, founder Weinstory, co-owner Trink Magazine and German & Austria specialist for Jancis Robinson

In our interview series Talking Wine with... we are talking with interesting people from the international world of wine about their love of wine.

How did they become wine lovers? What are their favorite wines? And which producers and appellations should we keep an eye on?

This time we had the honour to talk with Paula Redes Sidore. Paula is American born, but she has been living in Germany for 20 years now. She is not only a translator and writer, but also a certified sommelier from IHK. Now, she blends her love of words and wines through her translation agency Weinstory. She is the co-founder of Trink Magazine, and also writes about the wines of Germany and Austria for Jancis Robinson. In this interview she takes us through her career, and shares some of the tidbits about German wine culture that she has learned along the way.


FAVORITE PRODUCER: Whomever is enthralling me at the moment

FAVORITE WINE REGION: Wherever I happen to be standing, but I am partial to the wild, seclusion of Germany’s Nahe region

BEST MUSIC TO DRINK WINE TO:John Prine, I prefer stories in music as well as in wine.


Bruyere et Houillon Ploussard en aspis 4eme Feuille 2018

Rudolf Furst Schlossberg Spatburgunder GG 2019

Weingut Erwin Sabathi Sauvignon Blanc Ried Pössnitzberg Alte Reben 2019

You are the founder of Weinstory, a translation agency for wine translations from German to English. How did you come up with the idea to start a translation agency like this? And who uses your services the most?

When I decided to pursue my sommelier training, I chose the IHK certificate (comparable more or less with WSET 3). And perhaps more importantly I chose to do it in German, not in English. For me, I felt that the best way to understand the German wine culture was to study it in the language. People who knew that I was a native English speaker and writer would occasionally ask me: “hey, could you help me with this phrasing or text?”. Or when I talked with winemakers about some tasting notes that I had made, they found my perspective to be a new and interesting one. In other word, I was doing it for quite a while on the side as a favour or hobby. Then I realized that it was bigger than just an individual translation, so much of the information that I wanted to read about Germany wine, was not breeching the language “paywall”. It was all still in German. I believed that there were a lot of people, like myself, were interested in having this information in English. Weinstory was very organic and bootstrappy at first. Today, Weinstory is proud to celebrate 10 years strong. My partner and I are both former book editors and believe firmly in the four-eyes concept: for accuracy, for clarity, and for tone.

Who uses our service the most? I would say it would be primarily producers. And also, a fair number of importers. With the international spotlight of the last decade increasingly focused on German wines, growers and exporters are coming to see that their story needs to be told in other languages and needs to be told well.

In October 2020, you founded Trink Magazine together with Valerie Kathawala. It is the first and only English magazine which is dedicated to the German-speaking wine countries of Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Italy. What made you decide to create the magazine?

As the German wine world, especially the English-speaking German wine world, is quite small. Valerie and I had been aware of each other’s presence on social media for a while, but we didn’t know each other personally at all. When she reached out to me to connect, I was so thrilled to finally have someone in the US who knew German wines, and who could enlighten me on why the export market seemed so behind the reality of the German market: “how come the dry wines produced in Germany aren’t ending up in the States? Why does everybody still have this idea that German wines are sweet?” And somewhere over the course of our long email exchanges the idea for Trink was born.

At first, we thought we, together with a third party who decided to go in a different direction, would make a website. Then, as we both had publishing backgrounds, we began to think about a magazine. We had planned to meet for the first time in March 2020 at ProWein, but then Corona happened. And so, we had to decide: “do we move forward of not?” We made our decision and finally met each other for the first time at Vievinum in May 2022.

And where are most readers based? Do you have German readers too?

Our readership is worldwide, but our top readership is split between USA, Germany, UK and Scandinavia. When we started, we knew that America and Germany would make up a significant portion of the initial readership as it represented both of our background and home bases. But it’s been exciting to see the growth in readership from Italy, Switzerland and Austria as well. Clearly, there was a real demand for the sort of in-depth reporting in English that we are providing.

Since a few months you are also the German & Austria wine specialist for Jancis Robinson. How did you get the job besides Weinstory and Trinkmag? And what is it like to be a specialist for a renowned wine critic like Jancis?

It’s an incredible honour, of course. I admire the priority Jancis puts on making sure that the people that she has covering the regions know those countries inside and out: the people, the vineyards, the wines, and the culture. So of course, I was over the moon (and quite nervous, to be honest) when my predecessor decided to retire and asked if I would be interested in taking over the position while he stepped back. He had done an amazing job for over 20 years, and I can only hope to come close to filling his very big shoes.

Ever since receiving an honourable mention in a Jancis Robinsons writing competition many years ago, it had been my dream to write for her site. She’s such a legend, yet is still so down to earth, and very hands on. I really appreciate the fact that she is so involved. And still, I admit to occasionally shaking a bit when we meet.

You are originally American and now living in Germany. If you compare these two countries with each other, what is the biggest difference in wine culture? Does this difference require a different way of writing and translating?

So much of translation is cultural as well as linguistic. You need to both understand the culture that it’s coming from as well as the culture it’s going into. And that's what hopefully is the difference between a human translator and automatic translation, which works on a word-by-word basis. It can be linguistically correct at a sentence or word level but then lose the overall context. When I have a piece of marketing text to translate, it needs to sell itself just as well in English as it does in German. And sometimes that means infusing it with a different idea. It's transcreation as much as translation.

Where I come from on the east coast, there is very little wine growing. And in the rest of America the winemaking tradition only goes back to half a century and in Germany it goes back to the 14th century. There are so many differences that it’s hard even compare them. That said, my grandmother grew up in Sicily. So, in our family, even from a young age, wine was a regular part of Sunday dinner. Certainly, I would say bringing the international viewpoint into the translations and into the writing is one of the things that keeps my writing voice different. I can uniquely the bridge the culture that I've chosen here and the culture that I was born into.

I saw that you live near Cologne. If we are planning to visit this city, what are the best places for a good glass of wine or to have dinner?

For a glass of wine, that’s easy: go visit Valentine at Bar Rix. And if you’re in the mood for schnitzel, Essers Gasthaus.

Climate change is a hot topic. Some say climate change in Germany is considered as positive. Do you think the newly planted grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah will have a bright future, or will Germany always be the land of Riesling?

Climate crisis has been accelerating at rates far exceeding the scientists’ predictions. So, most winegrowers understand that while Germany has indeed seen some benefits, thinking of it as a positive development is short term thinking. Climate change is a train, and one that’s not stopping just because it’s nice here right now. Individuals seeing benefits now are going to be in real trouble in 10, 20, 30 years’ time. Some growers have indeed seen success with grape varieties better suited for warmer temperatures. But personally, I'm not a huge fan. I think it's interesting, and I think experimentation is key and necessary, but wine is agriculture, and agriculture is not something that starts anew at the end of each year. If you plant Syrah now; in 10 years’ time as the vine is reaching maturity, it might be too hot for Syrah… What then? I think it is more realistic to change the approach in the vineyard. There are so many different levers, the biggest problem though is that you can’t change all of them at once

This change also means that other regions are on the rise when it comes to viticulture. What German or Austrian region should we keep an eye on?

Good question! I’m a huge fan of the Nahe, which is not exactly a hidden gem. The wines are a combination of some of the most beautiful elements of the Mosel together with the rocky foundation of Rheinhessen. With an unmistakable quality that’s entirely its own. I think Mittelrhein is doing some interesting things too, but with such small quantities not much makes it onto the export market.

In Austria, Steiermark is a success story in the way they have redefined an international grape variety with a now recognizable Styrian USP. That particular style of Sauvignon Blanc can only come from Steiermark. And coming back to your previous question, I guess if Germany is going to continue with something like Syrah, then this redefinition this is what I’d love to see. I don’t feel like Germany really has fully reached that point yet. That’s a journey that does not come overnight…

As a wine specialist for Jancis, I assume you taste a lot of different wines and probably meet lots of winemakers from Germany and Austria. Some of them are already noted and some are still under the radar. Can you share some of your latest discoveries with our readers?

I would say that actually the process of a generational switch at many of the established wineries is really exciting right now. You have these pioneers, these legends that raised the profile of dry German wine 20-30 years ago. They’re now ushering in the next generation and the corresponding ideas that go hand-in-hand. Even truly established names are feeling new again. And in the best examples, you end up with something that is a beautiful blend of new ideas and established experience. Take Weingut Dr. Heger in the Kaiserstuhl for example. His two daughters are managing the estate, and Rebecca is now in the cellar. Together with their father, they have reduced the use of oak to create a style that’s more approachable at an earlier point of development. Or Weingut Cornelius Dönnhoff in the Nahe. The wines are slightly different than those of his father, without losing an ounce of quality and signature. You have Sarah Löwenstein in the Mosel. And Caroline Diel from Schloßgut Diel in the Nahe. They are all tweaking some of the levers; whether it’s the oxygen, the skin contact, the aging vessel or something else entirely. Maybe it’s less polished or a little edgier. And personally, I love the fact that so many of the next generation are women as well. So, revisit some of the classics, it’ll be worth it!

 What has been the biggest faux pas of your wine career so far?

Just one?! Actually, I wrote an article last year detailing three of them – I’ll send you the link. Another one would be when I had an online meeting (pre-Covid) with a prominent German wine critic. It was a Skype video, which tells you how lang ago it was. The computer was set up in a communal room, and I was running late. Once the meeting started, I saw in my reflection that all my underwear was hung up on a drying rack behind me. There was no way to move the rack without drawing even more attention to it. All I could do was to look at myself and think ‘no, way I can stand up to change that without drawing more attention to it’. So, I continued the meeting desperately hoping the critic wouldn’t notice. Spoiler alert: he did. We can laugh about it today, but back then I was mortified. Talk about airing your dirty – or clean – laundry. Today, the first thing I do before any Zoom meeting is to check the background.

Here you can read about Paula’s other faux pas

Is there a wine that is still on your wishlist? Is this a wine from a German-speaking country or something totally different?

There was a special Chardonnay from Domaine de Montbourgeau in the Jura. 13 years ago, when I was doing my internship in Alsace immediately following my sommelier exams, my husband and I had the opportunity to take a long weekend away. He asked me: “where do you want to go?” I suggested Burgundy. As he had spent months helping me study for the exams, he knew what that meant. He answered, “fine, but the trip has to focus on more than just wine. I’ve had enough.” Needless to say, I knew I had to pick somewhere else. We landed on Jura (this was before the Jura hype of today) because it had great hiking in the cascades, delicious cheese and… a bit of wine. I ended up coming home with a bottle of L’Étoile. It was like nothing I have tasted before or since. I only wish I had known then that it wasn’t imported to Germany. I would have bought home a whole case!

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