Ben is the Sommelier at the shiny new Stokehouse Restaurant in Brisbane. He tells me that he is loving living in a new city, meeting new people and the challenges of a new restaurant (“it’s hard work, but rewarding”).
He says that the last wine he opened with his Code38 was a 2009 Gros F&S ‘Hautes Cotes du Nuits’ Bourgogne Rouge – a ”great value entry-level red Burgundy from a wonderful producer in a stellar vintage.” The most exciting wine he has opened with it is, however, a 1982 Chateau Lafitte-Rothschild. ”It was a couple of years ago now”, he recalls. ”The cork wasn’t in great condition, but the Code38 was up to the task. The wine was mind-blowing! Still so youthful, so many years ahead for such an amazing wine.”
2009 Chablis are what Ben is loving at the moment, citing Christian Moreau and Bernard Defaix as two of his favourite producers. “Even their entry-level AC Chablis seem to have more punch than many other producers’ higher priced wines – get them while they last.” However, his current favourite variety is “Chardonnay, Chardonnay, Chardonnay.” Ben likes Chardonnay, in case it wasn’t clear! He also loves the Burgundy wine region and ‘white or red, I’m not fussy, love them both.”
He tells me his favourite white is a Bonneau du Martray Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru, while his favourite red is a Chateau Rayas Chateauneuf-du-Pape. “How”, he postulates, “can a wine look so bland in a glass yet taste like nothing else on earth, it’s amazing stuff.”
Ben’s memorable wine moment involves Quentin Tarrantino. “I was about to offer (him) a wine list in a restaurant, to have him turn and say ”I want a VB.” A beer that we didn’t have. The pub down the road was more than happy to oblige a 6-pack to get us out of trouble.”
Apart from the aforementioned Chablis, Ben would recommend other Code38 members try a Hoddles Creek ’1er Yarra Valley’ 2010 Chardonnay. ”A beautifully made wine from stunning fruit”, he rhapsodises, ”which will hopefully change peoples’ perception of how great Yarra Valley Chardonnay can be. Wonderful white peach flavours, with grapefruit acidity and some struck match, all tied together with good quality oak. Drink it above 10 degrees celcius with quail or spatchcock.”
It’s not even released yet though Ben! It will be, however, on March 1 2012, and if you simply cannot wait that long you can sample it by the glass at Stokehouse Brisbane. Otherwise, as of March, try independent fine wine stores or online through Boccaccio Cellars in Melbourne. ”Be quick, it won’t last long”, he adds.
What Ben loves most about his Code38 is that it still works as beautifully today as it did the day four years ago he started using it. ”On my irregular trips to see Jeff, he always cleans it up and sharpens the knife, and it’s good to go. I couldn’t imagine opening wine with anything else. I love it!”