A Glass With Max Grebenik, Champion of Somm360’s Season 1 and 2

  • By Somm360
  • 15 May 2021
  • 5 MIN
  • Level 101
Made possible by
Max Grebenik

Today we sit down for an interview with Max Grebenik (AKA G-Max), the Grand Champion of both Somm360’s Season 1 and 2.

Somm360: So, you were the Grand Champion of Somm360’s Season 1, and it’s looking as if you are a contender for the Grand Champion of Season 2; apart from aceing all of our quizzes, what do you do in a normal day?

Max Grebenik (AKA G-Max): To be honest, wine is my main hobby and my profession at the same time. I started working with wine 10 years ago. Since then, I have been putting a lot of effort and time into development of this career.

As of today, I work as a sommelier in a restaurant called “Norra Rok” and also I am a brand ambassador of “L-wine”, a wine trading company. Apart from this, as the President of the Ural Sommelier Association, I take part in training my colleagues in Yekaterinburg and in the Ural region in general.

I also find time for my other hobbies such as ice hockey and music.

Somm360: And how did you get to where you are today in your career?

MG: I don’t have any specific degree in the field of winemaking, and that’s why I have had to learn and explore everything on my own. The thing is that I simply love this subject and devote a great deal of my time to it. As well, I regularly take part in competitions for sommeliers, and this helps a lot. It motivates me and helps me to stay sharp.

Somm360: What’s the wine scene like in Yekaterinburg, and indeed Russia as a whole? How have you seen it evolve since you started in the industry?

MG: Yekaterinburg is among the top five of the most developed cities in Russia, although, of course, it’s well behind Moscow and St Petersburg. Nevertheless, there are quite a lot of restaurants and wine stores, as well as people who are interested in quality wine.

If we refer to Russia in general, then I must highlight that 10 years ago, when I started working with wine, I was lucky to witness the economic growth in Russia; the wine prices were lower, and this field was developing rapidly.

Unfortunately, since 2014 the situation has not been very favourable for further progress due to political issues. The retail prices for wines, as well as for other products, have grown considerably, but the people’s income has not had a similar rise. Anyway, people still have that passion for wines with them, and we try to do our best to promote moderate consumption of good wines in Russia.

Somm360: How has the ongoing pandemic impacted your work/life, and indeed the work/life of those working in the wine industry/hospitality in your region/country?

MG: For a while, many of us turned out to have no job. Last spring and summer were especially challenging.  For now, although officially the pandemic has not finished yet in Russia, all public places, including cafes and restaurants, are open. Actually we got used to this situation with COVID-19, and we keep working.

Somm360: And how do you see the future of the industry post-pandemic? What do you feel will have to change?

MG: We live in a high-tech world, every day more and more applications and websites come to the market, where a lot of useful information can be found. This is definitely good. But to be honest, I hope that the technologies never replace real people, and the emotions you may get from face-to-face communication and some personal traits of good sommeliers will keep their value to people.

Somm360: Which styles of wine are currently exciting you, and why?

MG: I love wine for its great variety; I keep being astonished and enjoying its versatility, but still, I have some favorites. For example, I really love Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley and Riesling from Germany, as well as, of course, the white wines of Burgundy.

As for the reds, I like elegant, juicy, and fresh wines, so I will note down wines of Mencia and Blaufrankisch varieties. Although of course I also value some classic wines like Syrah from the Northern Rhône or Sangiovese from Tuscany. My favorite wine region is Jura.

Apart from wine, I also really like beer and sake.

Somm360: What do you feel is currently “hot” in the world of wine in your part of the world right now?

MG: Italian wines have always been very popular in Russia, French classics like Bordeaux and Burgundy are also in demand, but very few people can afford to buy them. This provides an opportunity for lesser-known regions and varieties to prove themselves. People currently have an interest for natural wines and biodynamics, and there is a trend in restaurants for light, elegant wines with lower alcohol content.

Somm360: And what is less favoured these days? And why do you feel that is?

MG: I believe that sweet and fortified wines are not very popular lately. This is due to the general trend to prefer lighter and drier wines.

Somm360: What are your thoughts on your country’s domestic wine production? Anything you feel we should be exploring?

MG: After the breakup of the USSR, for a long time there was no time for winemaking in Russia. The industry began to recover and develop only 15 years ago. During this time, about 10 -15 producers appeared who make good wine. They mainly use international grape varieties, with Cabernet Franc being particularly good. But we also have some decent local varieties, the main of which is Krasnostop. Naturally, most of the vineyards in Russia are concentrated around the Black Sea in a region called Kuban.

Somm360: What’s your favourite thing about the Somm360 platform?

MG: I really like the concept that people from all over the world can prepare questions for each other and develop together

Somm360: And what would you like us to change (or work harder upon)?

MG: It would be great if there was some kind of chat where quiz participants could communicate and discuss the questions.

Somm360: Oooooh… that could open up a real can of worms!

How do you fancy your chances in our 3rd season?

MG: If I continue to train well for each quiz as before, I think I will be able to show a good result. Meanwhile, the points scored are of course not the main thing here. The most valuable thing is the new knowledge that we get when we pass the quiz and prepare for it.

Somm360: Thanks so much Max. Much appreciated. And all the very best of luck!

Max Grebenik