A wine list must always suit the style of food being served, and if ever there was a style of cuisine that tests the sommelier, it’s the spicy and sometimes strangely flavoured Chinese-based food at Spice Temple at 10 Bligh Street, Sydney.
I dined at Spice Temple a few days ago and easily found four superb wines to share among six diners, which were a terrific fit with the food.
We had a rich, spicy Alsace pinot gris (Albert Mann 2010 Cuvee Albert), a delicate and subtle Austrian gruner veltliner (Nigl Kremser Freiheit 2010), a light-bodied, refined and superbly aromatic Tasmanian pinot noir (Freycinet 2010 ‘‘Louis’’) and finished with a slightly bigger red, a Heathcote shiraz from a French winemaker, to partner roast pork belly: Alain Graillot 2010. A great food and wine experience, and I marvelled at this excellent list so well chosen to match the fare.
In many ways, designing a small wine list is more difficult than a big one, because every wine must earn its place. There should be no passengers. If a wine is introduced, another must be dropped.
Sommelier Christian Denier and his team do a great job here.
Lots of riesling and more chenin blanc than you might expect – mostly from the Loire Valley – and also a goodly representation of pinot noir (alas, more Kiwi than Australian); also a smattering of well-chosen pinot gris, the finer kinds of chardonnay such as Chablis, and lots of the softer and fleshier types of shiraz/syrah – but very little cabernet – give an insight into the thinking of the sommeliers.
The list is also well designed and each wine is logically described – none of this anti-capital-letter attitude, or obscure arrangement of information that forces the diner to hunt for the relevant details. It’s all logical and user-friendly.
Oh, and finally, perhaps most importantly, the quality of the wines is impeccable.
There is a disturbing trend in this country to relegate the importance of quality in wine selection in favour of obscurity and trendiness. Not at Spice Temple. It’s a benchmark clever, small wine list.