Wine lovers on wine and the vinous life.
Anthony and I met in Italy and fast became pals. Hailing from Melbourne, Australia, he and his family have made wine, and especially Italian wine, a priority in their corner of the world. Endowed with a youthful vigor and a curious mind, I’ve really enjoyed getting to know Anthony, and I hope the rest of you will also take pleasure in his insights, his impeccable taste and his exuberant joy about wine and life.
What wines do you have standing up right now?
One of the few benefits of lock-down in Oz has been a lot more time at home. That has meant I have had the opportunity to drink wines that have been cellared for 10-15 years and are now ready to be drunk. Over the last few weeks I have had a good look at 2006 Barolo with the highlights being Borgogno Barolo Classico 2006 and Piero Benevelli Ravera di Monforte Barolo 2006. These 2006 are in a great spot right now.
What’s the last great wine you drank?
The last great wine was the 2008 Soldera Case Basse a
few weeks ago. Gianfranco was definitely a unique individual and the wines he
made stand out like a beacon. They talk more about Gianfranco than Montalcino
or Sangiovese and show his relentless drive to perfection.
Are there any classic wines that you only recently had for the first time?
Like the rest of the wine world, with prices of Barolo
and Barbaresco going through the roof it has opened up opportunity for many
wine regions that were simply forgotten or passed over. One of these being Alto
Piemonte and specifically Bramaterra. Recently I drank the Antoniotti
Bramaterra 2016 which is a brilliant wine.
Describe your ideal drinking experience (when, where, what, how).
My ideal drinking experience would be somewhere in Italy (maybe Rome, Puglia or Piemonte) with my wife at a family run trattoria (think Armando al Pantheon) eating food specific from the region with wine picked by that family to match with their regional food.
No one does hospitality better than the Italians. They
get it and that is for me one of the biggest things I miss about not
travelling. Life is all about experiences and there is no better experience
than sharing a meal with some of the people you cherish the most, with food
that is prepared with love and drinking wine that compliments the food and
What’s your favorite wine no one else has heard of?
Up until recently in Oz it was the Nebbiolo made by
Renato Vezza in Priocca! I spotted a bottle in Chiara Pepe personal cellar in
Abruzzo and we drank it over dinner with the family. Renato was an unknown to
me and all of Oz. That wine really showed me that great Nebbiolo doesn’t have
to be Barolo or Barbaresco.
What wine should everybody drink before the age of 21?
Gee, that is a hard one. I don’t think many people
under 21 would understand the great wines of the world. For me, that is a
process that takes years and it is really a journey. So, the wine everybody should
drink before 21 needs to be wine that can open your eyes to just how special
wine can be. Depending on where you live in the world, it will differ. In Oz, I
would choose something like Pewsey Vale Riesling from the Eden Valley. Think of
a scorching hot summers day, oysters or prawns on the bbq, washed down with old
vine, refreshing Eden Valley Riesling.
Who in wine — winemakers, winery owners, writers, retailers, collectors — active today do you admire most?
As an importer, Kermit Lynch. The vision he had is mind blowing and I think the template on importing for me is definitely strongly aligned with how he started importing.
As a wine writer, I really enjoy reading Monica Larner’s reports on Italian wine. Not only is Monica a fantastic person, but her writing really transports me to a sense of place and gives even someone who travels to Italy three times a year (well before Covid) a better understanding of the producer, vintage and wine.
As a producer there are many. The Benevelli family,
the Pepe family, the Bianchi family (Monsanto), the Gaia family to name a few. The list
could go one. Going back to Italy is like seeing family. We work with producers
that are our friends and more like family.
Do you count any wine as guilty pleasures?
Definitely not. It is a career. Early on in my
university days, I had to choose if I wanted to become a banker or accountant
and have wine as a pleasure, or work in wine. I am fortunate in that my family
has always worked in wine, however it wasn’t until the end of my days at
University that I knew that I wanted wine to play a major role in my life.
Has a wine ever brought you closer to another person, or come between you?
Drinking great bottles over a meal with friends or
loved wines definitely forges a stronger bond with friendships and family. I am
a lover not a fighter and enjoy wine with company with those that I like.
What’s the most interesting thing you learned from a wine recently?
That sometimes all of us in the wine industry can get
it wrong! I have a sneaking feeling that 2010 Barolo is not going to turn out
exactly how we thought.
What moves you most in a wine?
The stories. Great wine is all about the story. The
story of who made it. The vineyard. The Vintage. Understanding and hearing
these stories moves me the most in wine.
What do you really wish you understood about wine?
Wine is all about learning. I don’t think we fully
understand everything about wine. We can analyze and test wine to find out pH,
alcohol, etc but wine is so much more than that and I think that is why it is
so alluring. Great bottles can come from bad vintages and unheard of producers.
Similarly, we can be disappointed with wine from great vintages and great
producers. Like a golf swing, every
bottle is slightly different. It is those differences that make wine so great.
Which styles do you especially enjoy drinking? And which do you avoid?
I love feminine, perfumed wines that have layers of
fruit and complexity. Barolo, Barbaresco, Brunello and Burgundy are probably my
four favourite things in wine.
How do you organize your wines?
Our life is so organized and regimented that it is good to have some chaos. With my own personal cellar, nothing is organized. It is made up of bottles that I have cellared many years ago and the greatest joys is finding a bottle that you had forgotten you put in your cellar.
In the next few months, I am splitting my cellar in
two locations so that should even throw even more surprises.
cellar is probably 90% Italian, 5% French and 5% Australian. However,
I have been collecting vintage port for twenty years. I hardly ever drink it
and I don’t know why I collect it. Maybe deep down, I know my kid’s grandchildren
may one day open a bottle of port that was made 100 years ago. Other than that,
I really don’t know why I collect a wine I rarely drink.
What’s the best wine you’ve ever received as a gift?
I think the best wine I have received as a gift really
hasn’t been about the wine. Some bottles given to me from friends who have
treasured these bottles and then passed away make you remember and reminisce
about all the great times you have had with them. It might not be the best wine
I have received to drink, but it is one of the best wine gifts you can receive.
How have your drinking tastes changed over time?
That is a hard one. I have spent most of my life
around wine. The wine I love today is still the wine I loved when I was 25.
Maybe it is the connection we have to Italy through family that has meant why my
tastes haven’t changed a lot over time. What I can’t drink today (and could
rarely drink when I was young) was big, alcoholic wines that taste of sugar
rather than a sense of place.
Disappointing, overrated, just not good: What wine did you feel as if you were supposed to like, and didn’t? Do you remember the last wine you set aside without finishing?
Gamay! In theory I like it, but more often than not
the palate profile and structure doesn’t do it for me. Wine is so personal.
Some of my friends who I respect absolutely love Gamay. Just not for me.
What wine do you think everyone should try?
Old bottles that take you back to a different era. I
love history. Drinking wines made during the war years with no refrigeration,
temperature control and under circumstances we can’t even imagine make you realize
just how lucky we are today.
You’re organizing a dinner party. Which three people from the wine world, dead or alive, do you invite?
It would be a female affair. I have two daughters who are free thinkers. I know if they decided to go into the wine industry, they would make sure that equality in the wine industry should be a given. The three people at the dinner party would be three females who have led the way in my time.
- Gaia Gaja
- Chiara Pepe
- Sarah Bray
I don’t think I have missed anything.
What do you plan to drink next?
With Covid meaning we can’t travel to Italy; the
hardest thing is not being able to visit the cellars of the producers that we
love and import. So many producers have been sending me forward bottles of the
wines that they will release in the next year. Over the next couple of nights,
I will look at Oddero’s Villero Barolo from the 2017 vintage.