We talk to Lithuania’s Best Sommelier about what makes Henners special.
Martynas Pravilonis is the Head Sommelier at the Atelier Wine Boutique & Tasting Bar at the Kempinski Hotel in Vilnius. Since qualifying with the Court of Master Sommeliers in 2014, he has won the title of Best Sommelier of Lithuania three times (2016, 2017, 2018) and came 4th at the Best Sommelier of the World Competition in 2019.
His credentials speak for themselves, and he has tasted some of the best wines ever made, so I’m curious to find out what he believes makes a truly great wine.
“First of all, it should be something that gives you pleasure in drinking. But on top of that I think it should really reflect the place that it comes from and have a back story…all of this together makes a wine great. Then, of course, all the technical things like balance, acidity and so on. Some wines might not have one or another aspect, but they’re still great because they capture your imagination and emotion.”
That’s why wine is much more than a beverage: it’s like a piece of art.
Martynas built the impressive wine list at Atelier from scratch, amassing a collection of some of the world’s most well-known wines alongside impressive boutique offerings. What in particular made him go looking for English wines to add to the list?
“I wanted to build a world-class list, which represented current trends in the wine world. In the past 8 or so years, the media have been talking about English sparkling wines; how it’s started competing with Champagne and sometimes overtaking it! When the opportunity came to list an English sparkling wine, I was very lucky that it was Henners. When I tasted it for the first time I was really surprised by the quality and the taste.”
What made Henners stand out?
“It has a wonderful story. Having visited the winery in August , it’s amazing to see; the winery’s not quite a garage, but it’s very small, and when you then taste how good the wines are, it’s amazing. The wines are also getting better balanced and much more complex. When guests come [to Atelier] and I ask if they want to try an English sparkling wine and pour Henners they’re really surprised by the quality and the taste; they’ll often buy a bottle to take home!”
What was his impression of the winery when he visited?
“The first thing you notice when you get out of the car is the saltiness of the air and the wind from the sea [only 4 miles away]. It’s easy to see where the minerality comes from. That’s the imprint of the terroirs and the place on the wine.”
You can’t talk to a Sommelier about wine and not ask for a food recommendation. What would Martynas suggest to pair with the Native Grace Sparkling?
“The Native Grace sparkling is a bit richer than the Brut and Reserve, so I would go for something like I had for lunch today: soft shell crab burger with fries! You get all the toastiness and rich brioche flavours but refreshing acidity to cleanse the fattiness of the crab meat and fries. I think it would still be the perfect wine for oysters and shellfish, because it still has a lot of minerality and freshness, too.”
It’s clear that Martynas thinks the Henners wines are something special, and we happen to agree! We can’t wait to see what the future holds for Henners. If the UK’s current industry expansion* is anything to go by, then one thing is clear: Look out world… English wine is coming!
*according to Wine GB statistics over 3 million vines were planted in the UK in 2019 and 15 million bottles were produced, compared to the previous 5 million average.