As we’re only days away from kicking off the Australian Tour in PERTH, we grabbed sommelier James Tuxworth (Il Lido Italian Canteen) for a few minutes to chat all things Pinot, how to navigate your way around the room, and what it was like hanging out with some of the world’s best Sommeliers. Plus, a few tips on the producers to keep an eye on this weekend.
Tell us a little about yourself?
I’m a 25 year old English Northerner. I was born in Grimsby where the main drink of choice is Stella. My life revolved around pubs and rugby. For years I ran a little Italian joint with my one of my best mates and boss Simone Giorgio Massimo Bellandini where I trained as a chef and developed my love for hospitality. Now I’m a certified Somm with the Court of Master Sommeliers and Ops manager for Ocean Group Cottesloe, operating Il Lido Italian Canteen and soon, Canteen Pizza.
You got to hang with some of the World Best Sommeliers in Melbourne last year as part of the World 50 Best Restaurant Awards. What was that like? What were the wine highlights?
It was really devoid of wank. I loved it – I was surrounded by people at my age and stage who have that recognition and passion for things new and old. There wasn’t that competition and snobbery that can come along with the profession at times. It was a great opportunity to learn.
As for wine highlights, we opened 2600 bottles in 10 days. So it’s pretty hard to nail down a winner from the bunch. But when you’re sitting in the Park Hyatt Melbourne at 9am with a stinking hangover and Stephen Henschke blindsides you with a vertical Hill of Grace tasting back to ’86, that’s pretty unreal.
Where do you think Australian Pinot Noir is at the moment? What’s your pick of the regions and why? What style is it?
Aus Pinot Noir to me is super diverse. You’ve got guys like Timo Mayer and Mac Forbes in the Yarra Valley, Curly Flats in Macedon making relatively conventional Pinot Noir, but with immense quality. Compare that with, for example, the team at Domaine Lucci making Lucy Margaux in the Basket Ranges, which challenges our perception of the grape’s potential. Australian winemakers are really taking advantage of the diverse microclimates here and have an open-mindedness about their practice, allowing them to push the boundaries.
Where do you Pinot?
I Pinot with friends. It’s not about the where, it’s about the who you share it with. Whether you’re drinking LAS VINO Albino Pinot out of plastic cups on a boat at Rottnest, or sitting at a random BYO pizza joint smashing Grand Cru Bourgogne. Wine’s the occasion, not the place.
Without getting super technical and all that, what do you really think the best Pinot and food match is?
PIZZA AND PINOT
What’s the weirdest wine (can be Pinot) and food match you’ve done that actually worked?
Bacon sandwiches and white Burgundy! It’s a taste sensation!
We’ll have heaps of different Pinot Noirs on tasting at Pinot Palooza. What are your tips on tackling the room like a pro?
Take notes, take notes, take notes. They’ll be wine splashed and illegible by the end – but if you think you’re going to remember the first wine by the time you’re at your last? Think again! It can be as simple as writing down what you try and circling the ones you like. If you don’t want to take notes, still ask questions. Ask all the questions, it’s not often you’re in a forum where you can ask random detailed question and get legitimate, enthusiastic answers.
What would be your top 3 Pinot Noir producers (pouring in Perth) who you simply shouldn’t miss?
Easy: Curly Flat, Journey Wines and Picardy
What was the first wine you ever drank? Go on, tell us! Was it Pinot? If not, can you remember your ‘first time’ with Pinot?
2009 Zaccegnini Montepulciano, back in the UK, was the first wine I want to remember. Where I’m from you buy your wines from Tesco for less than five pounds. We were drinking things like Casillero del Diablo and Wolf Blass Yellow Label Cabernet. We all have to start somewhere.
My first Pinot… I’m not sure but other than unknowingly drinking it in champagne in my younger years, I guess it would probably be Picardy, Pemberton WA.
What do you drink when no one is watching?
Life is too short for bad wine, I drink with friends and we drink well.
That said, If there’s no good wine around il still smash a Stella for old times sake.
What do you think makes the perfect wine drinking play list? Can you give us your top 10 Pinot tunes?