When Ben’s trusty Lagiole wine knife broke recently – in the throes of a very busy Friday night – it was his Code38 which saved the day. “A wine knife breaking apart???”, he exclaims. “I have never in my twenty years of service had this type of mishap before. Pliers were required to remove the broken cork-screw and my trusty Code38 went straight into action. God bless those Code38 knives!”
Benjamin Moechtar, obviously a fan, is also co-proprietor (with his wife Ambie Moore) at Delicado Foods and Delicado Wines in North Sydney, a Spanish wine bar and restaurant, wine store with a European-style deli. He is also a certified sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers (the premium international examining body for sommeliers, established to encourage improved standards of beverage service in hotels and restaurants.) As a sommelier, he mildly rebukes me, he is inclined to shirk the question regarding his favourite wine variety. “The answer”, he says, “would be too difficult to articulate in words. Let’s just say that as my palate is developing further, and in short, ageing… I am often seeking varieties with greater acidity and with reds, more structure and tannin.” Examples he proffers are Riesling, Chenin Blanc, Albarino in whites; and in reds Pinot Noir, Nebbiolo and blends with Cabernet Sauvignon or Cab Franc “to the fore”.
He does admit to the Loire as his favourite wine region – “for its diversity and overall elegance/charm-blended raw rusticity.” His favourite whites, he tells me, are Rieslings by the maker Donnhoff of the Nahe in Germany, while favourite reds are “Tempranillo expressions from Alejandro Fernandez of Pesquera fame.”
And yet it is an Australian wine which Ben nominates as the most exciting one he has opened with his Code38 – a Stanley Leasingham Cabernet/Malbec 1974. He tells me it was a precursor to the famous Bin 56 cuvee, made for decades under the Leasingham label. He opened it for some wine-making friends from Rusden Vineyards and Tom Foolery Wines who were so inspired by it that they went on to make a wine called ‘The Good Shepherd’. “It was”, Ben says, “one of the greatest Australian wines we have served at Delicado Foods in its short history. A remarkably fresh bottle of wine with ethereal, almost magical colour, length and complexity. A tribute to Australian red wine-making history.”
The wine he would like to recommend to other Code38-ers is a Pinot Noir from Sonoma, USA. It’s the 2009 County Line and, in terms of distribution, is relatively new to Australia. “I definitely believe it is worth a try”, Ben says, “and (for Australians) a good entry wine for people to get their head around the wines of the USA. It is modern and very drinkable.” It also retails here for around $30, and at Ben’s venue they are currently serving it by the glass, as well as selling it by the bottle. It is, he says, “bright crimson, magenta colour. Good concentration and youthful colour. Smells of blackberries intermingled with black cherries in syrup with whispers of charcuterie and earthy undertones. Silky, slurpy and medium weight. The tannins are slinky and integrated and evolved enough to slip by without much notice. The wine changes a lot in the glass which I love and stands a bit of chilling if the weather or room in which it is served is warm. I like it at about 16 degrees Celsius and love how it changes as it warms up.” Ben reckons this wine marries perfectly with strongly-flavoured shellfish, such as mussels in tomato broth, or poultry like simple roasted chicken and vegetables. The wine is also shipped to Australia by Fox Beverages, accessed via the internet for those who aren’t fortunate enough to have Delicado Foods within easy reach…
What Ben loves most about his Code38 (apart from its face-saving qualities during a busy service!) is its balance. “It is impeccable and imbues confidence”, he tells me. “The feel of the Code38 in my hand is a pleasure.”