As owner, host and sommelier at Nobelhart & Schmutzig in Berlin, Billy Wagner seeks to teach his guests the real flavor of his adopted city— even if he’s got to get vocally local about it. By selecting exclusively regional products, he supports producers in Berlin and its environs and seeks to rekindle a broader love for the region’s native bounty in the kitchens of the capital city.
Billy Wagner was born in 1981 in Mittweida, Germany, not far from Chemnitz. He grew up primarily in Erlangen-Dechsendorf, a town near Nuremberg. Working towards a degree in restaurant administration, he apprenticed in the Hotel Herzogs Park in Herzogenaurach. The passion for all things wine was kindled while working under the direction of Restaurant Manager and Sommelier Ivan Jakir at Essigbrätlein restaurant in Nuremberg. Other stations included: Dieter and Elvira Kaufmann’s restaurant Zur Traube in Grevenbroich near Düsseldorf; Claudia and Michael Stern’s Vintage in Cologne; a position as sommelier at Monkey’s Plaza in Düsseldorf, where he developed three different wine concepts; and finally the big jump to Berlin in August 2008, where he assumed the role of host and sommelier in RUTZ — Restaurant & Weinbar. There he worked with master chef Marco Müller until February 2014. In 2010, in the middle of that period, “RUTZ – Restaurant” climbed from 16 to 17 points in the Gault Millau wine guide. Billy and his team also preserved their one star rating through his departure.
On February 11, 2015 Billy Wager opened Nobelhart & Schmutzig. He had previously earned repeat honors as German Sommelier of the Year and a reputation as one of the more outspoken hosts in Germany. Whatever the situation, if there’s something delicious in that bottle, he’s on board. Except tequila. He can’t stand tequila. When among his close friends, he’s probably drinking an herbal schnapps or fruit brandy, a snifter of liqueur and the sommelier’s nightcap — a tasty beer – Uerige Alt. With so many sexy alternatives, he’s not afraid to play the field.
Over the years, Billy Wagner has developed his deep pool of knowledge and personal taste as a sommelier the old fashioned way — one discerning sip at a time. Far away from the mainstream and grand icons of the wine world, Billy recognized for himself that good wines can only come from fine soils. He today is a major proponent of the philosophy of regional wines — individual artifacts of their origin from healthy soils and indigenous grapes. This is a conscious turning of his back against the increasing standardization of the wine world and the indifferent tastes that come with it. ‘Regional’ to him means not just offering German wines, but drawing deeply from the wide variety of European wines.
Billy Wagner champions wines that are fine, deep and lively. These are wines that don’t satiate one’s thirst — they awaken it. Aromatic complexity, as well as drinkability, play an enormous role for him.
Yet Billy Wagner’s zeal isn’t restricted solely to the fermented juice of the grape. He’s happy to work over a radically layered fruit wine, a finely handcrafted beer, a high quality tea or coffee, classic cocktails and, of course, a well-prepared meal.
Micha Schäfer is the executive chef at Nobelhart & Schmutzig. He and his crew guide guests through the evening, presenting and explaining each progressive course. Swiss-born Schäfer came to Berlin in 2008, where his various jobs included a stint as a cook. After a brief excursion into theological studies in the city of Gießen, he ultimately found his calling in the kitchen, beginning his training in 2010. By 2012 Micha Schäfer had claimed a prized spot at “Villa Merton,” with two Michelin stars and 18 points in Gault Millau. Master Chef Matthias Schmidt invited him to assume a vital role in the restaurant’s creative processes, and Micha Schäfer soon learned the virtues of regional cuisine. Those experiences even today form the foremost foundation in his preparation of dishes. From day one he has been responsible for the kitchen at Nobelhart and Schmutzig.