Head of Langton’s Fine Wine Auctions and winemaker at Silent Way, Tamara Grischy is an all-Australian gal. Revealing a love for Wendouree, Crawford River Riesling and Four Pillars Gin, her roots in the local industry run deep.
How did you get into wine?
My family owned a restaurant called Catalina, in Port Douglas, so I was brought up with wine. We had wine at the dinner table – it’s always been a part of my life. I was preparing to study human movement when I finished school, but I ended up taking a gap year to save money for travel instead. During that time I worked at the restaurant, and that’s when I got the bug. People would come in – sales reps, winemakers – to showcase their wines, and I thought, This is a fun industry. I loved it! I asked how I could get involved, and was told I had to go to Roseworthy, which is now part of Adelaide University. So I applied and started in 1990. I enjoyed every moment. Wine is a living thing that evolves in the bottle, and you’re constantly learning new things. The reason it’s so addictive as a profession is because nothing ever stays the same. I also met the love of my life at Roseworthy [Shadowfax winemaker Matt Harrop]. We’ve got three beautiful kids and our own vineyard in Victoria’s Macedon Ranges, and we’ve just created our own label, Silent Way.
How did you start your cellar?
When I was studying at the University of Technology in Sydney, after Roseworthy, I was working part-time at Paddington Fine Wines. I used my staff discount to buy a lot of Dalwhinnie cabernet and Henschke Hill of Grace. I also had some Cullens, courtesy of trade prices from my family’s restaurant. So it was a pretty classic Aussie line-up. We still pull out those Dalwhinnie cabernets and they’re such great value, beautiful drinking wines.
How do you organise your cellar?
Our wine is in a temperature-controlled cellar room that we’ve just built. We’ve currently got the bottles in boxes on pallets. So we go, ‘Okay, what are we drinking?’ And then it’s a case of opening a box and being like, ‘Yay! That sounds good, that’s easy to get to’. But it’s definitely not ordered at all, it’s totally unpredictable. I think it’s nice to have that element of surprise.
Do you have any advice for spotting a great cellaring wine?
In what I do with Langton’s, this is our business. First, we get to know our vendors and find out where the bottle has come from. Has it been stored in temperature-controlled conditions, lying down, in a cool environment that hasn’t fluctuated over time? And then when you’re physically looking at the bottle, the first thing you need to check is where the level sits. Is it into the neck? Or has it fallen and evaporated? The larger the gap between the wine level and the top of the cork closure, the higher likelihood you’re getting oxidation. And then of course you look at the cork and the capsule – is there any leakage, is it seeping? Finally, check the colour in light to determine whether it’s dense or whether it looks like tea.
If you could recommend one wine to track down for cellaring, what would it be?
Our cellar is full of riesling; it’s definitely a favourite to put down. Frankland Estate and Crawford River both age beautifully. I think Wendouree is one of the great treasures of the Australian wine industry. It’s certainly the one wine we buy every year without fail, benefitting from five, six or even 20 years in bottle. The ’95 vintages are looking beautiful now – I think ’95 was also Wendouree’s 100th anniversary vintage. But even if you pick up the current release Wendouree – which is the 2012 – it’s a beautiful vintage, and it will have a long, long life. With Wendouree, we tend to go for the red blends.
Is there a wine you’re dying to dig out of the cellar?
A Bartolo Mascarello, which is a Barolo from Piedmont, Italy. It’s certainly great-value Barolo; it’s hard to find, but it’s one of those wines I believe will become very rare and of cultish status. It’s beautiful, traditional and holds a special place in our cellar – it’s definitely one to grab.
Do you find the collecting of wine nostalgic? Is it a way of indexing memories?
Absolutely. I think that’s the great thing about wine: it’s all about experience. You could buy a $15 bottle and have it today with friends and a beautiful lunch, and that memory is instilled in that bottle and that experience. It doesn’t have to be the $2000 bottle of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti – you can get beauty out of everyday wines because it’s really about who you’re with and what’s happening at the time. After my husband and I bought our first apartment in Auckland, we had $150 left in our account. So we went to the local Caro’s wine shop and said, “We’ve got $150 to spend and we need to buy a great bottle of wine.” He sold us the Ridge Geyserville from America. We took that home to our new house, and we drank it and we loved it. And that brand will always have a special place in our hearts because of the memory attached to it.
What do you think will be the next big thing in cellaring?
In terms of technology, the Vintec Wine Fridges are really starting to dominate. They’re a no-brainer for consumers because they’re designed with ideal temperature and correct storage in mind. They remove the need for a physical space with all the right elements, making cellaring more accessible. With Langton’s, we’re looking at tracking the temperature of wines as they move logistically through the country – another step in ensuring the quality of our wines is kept constant. In terms of style, Australian pinot noir, with ever-improving cellaring potential, is definitely trending. I think there’s also a shift from straight varietals to red blends. And fortifieds! Seppeltsfield has done an incredible job of refocusing attention on Australian fortified.
And the most surprising wine you’ve tried?
The 2013 Bruno Duchene Collioure ‘La Pascole’. I had it with my husband recently and it was extraordinary. It’s a grenache-based blend with incredible aromas of gardenias… it blew me away.
Does your cellar hold many international wines?
We’ve got a cross-section of Burgundy from pinot to chardonnay. But also Bordeaux – the 2000 vintage was a great one. At the moment we’re really obsessing over Italian styles. I’d say our cellar is about 60 per cent Australian and 40 per cent international wine.
When you’re not drinking wine, what do you reach for?
I enjoy sherry as an aperitivo, as well as Campari and gin. There are so many great Australian gins at the moment, such as Four Pillars and Kangaroo Island Spirits Wild Gin.
Next article: An inside look at chef David Thompson's cellar, and the secret to matching Thai food with whisky and wine.