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Five minutes with James Viles, chef and director at Biota Dining

Publish Date: 13 Apr 2017

Authored by: Amelia Ball

Chef and director of two-hatted Biota Dining & Rooms in Bowral, New South Wales, James Viles has a refreshing approach to wine.

How important is wine for you when it comes to the dining experience? In a traditional sense, it is important for wine to be enjoyed with a meal and has been done so through the ages. Wine stimulates the senses, which is why it can be so important to the dining experience.

How would you describe your own collection? It’s not much of a collection – just a few special bottles – because I think wine is there to be enjoyed. I’m a bit of a here-and-now kind of person; I don’t have the patience to wait 10 years to drink a wine.

Have you had any cellaring disasters? My dad had stored some Omni [a sparkling wine] that was about eight years old and gave it to our sommelier Ben Shepherd. That was definitely a disaster!

What wines or styles are you loving right now? Light, aromatic reds have been beautiful in the warmer months with a little chill on them.

What styles are you finding people are leaning towards at Biota right now? People are asking for big, oaky chardonnays again, as well as wanting to discover the local Southern Highlands wines.

What are your favourite wine regions? Obviously the Southern Highlands is making some great wines at the moment, but that’s a little biased! There are some interesting natural-style wines making their way out of the Adelaide Hills that have caught our attention.

Is there a particular wine you celebrate with? I always try to celebrate with something Aussie. There’s a great little sparkling wine from Stefano Lubiana Wines that I often enjoy with my wife.

What’s the oldest wine you’ve tried? It was a 20-year-old Penfolds Grange (1996) that a customer brought to the restaurant last year. It was corked!

What’s your post-shift drink of choice? I like a cider – Apple Thief’s Granny Smith Cider is what I usually go for. I don’t mind a James Boag either or an Amaretto Sour.

Your most recent addition to your wine collection? I’ve just added a case of 2014 Tertini Pinot Noir. Our sommelier Ben said to cellar it for 10 years, but I’ll most likely drink it in the next year.

Any wines you never used to like, but now love? I didn’t used to drink much red wine, but in the cool climate of Bowral, there’s nothing better than warming up with a red.

Has there been a wine that’s taught you a lesson? Yes, we currently serve No. 1 Bubbly Viognier Dub Style. It’s a sparkling viognier in a can. It’s really been an eye-opener for most people and I guess it tells you that you don’t need to follow the rule book.

What dishes and wines would you serve for your ultimate meal? I would have a really fragrant Asian-style fish and rice dish – maybe a congee – and pair it with a dry, aromatic white such as the 2016 Centennial Vineyards Gewurztraminer.

Next article: dreaming of a gourmet weekend by the beach? Maria Crews shares her top vinous picks from the Noosa Food & Wine Festival.

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