Being big fans of The Grove, not just for its incredible, ever-evolving haute cuisine, but also for its standout wine selection, our hearts started beating a little faster when we heard that the Saint Patricks Square stalwart is currently touting what might just be the country’s best selection. We solicited the expertise of sommelier, Lucile Fortuna, to enlighten us on The Grove’s offering and the evolving nature of her job.
Why is The Grove’s wine list so good at the moment?
We really have wines from everywhere, not only New Zealand, France and Italy, but wines from Mallorca, the Canary Islands, Bulgaria too. And right now, we also have a lot of different organic wines, around six wines, again, from all over — France, Austria, New Zealand.
What’s the difference between organic and biodynamic wines?
Biodynamic wines can still have some added sulphites whereas organic wines don’t have any at all. They both avoid the use of pesticides but biodynamic wines are particularly focussed on making the wine-making process more sustainable and generally leaving no or little footprint.
Why are organic/biodynamic wines such a big thing?
There are a few things. I think a lot of the movement is in response to younger people. They want to drink something clean, fruity, with fewer toxins and less complexity. Then there’s the fact that more and more winegrowers want to grow ‘clean’ grapes without pesticides to preserve their natural soil. So this has become the motivation for them. I have also never come across so many vegans as I have in Australia and New Zealand. Obviously, they can only drink biodynamic wines because the majority of normal wines use fish or eggs in the ‘fining’ process (to clarify them visually). And because the biodynamic wines have fewer/no sulphites in them, people find they have less of a headache the next day.
Do you always serve red wine with red meat and white wine with fish?
God no! If you have a customer who doesn’t like red wine but who orders the beef, you’re going to have to do something inventive. There’s no ‘perfect’ wine match and there are a lot of different wines that will work with one dish, it might even be a beer or a cocktail. You have to really analyse your customers, to read what they might like.
What is the most unusual wine or drinks match you’ve ever done?
I think it would have to be rosé sake with the Ramen that was on last winter’s menu at The Grove. I would put it down in front of the customer without saying anything and then see what they thought. Eighty percent of people liked it and I had to find something else for the others.
Do you have an opinion on whether screw tops or corks are better?
Being from France, it was very hard for me at first. Removing the cork from the bottle was such a big part of the performance as a waiter, so to go from that to just having a screw top that you would crack open and poor makes me miss it sometimes. But I definitely don’t believe it affects the quality.
How has having a Coravin changed things?
The thing with the new world wines is that they have a screw top anyway so you can’t use the Coravin. But it has meant we’re able to offer more and more varied wines by the glass. We now have so many unique wines that we can serve by the taste or the glass, they may not be on the list for long, but for wine-lovers, it can be very exciting.
What is the most expensive glass of wine you offer?
That would have to be the Les Genevrieres, Meursault Premier Cru, from Domaine Latour-Giraud. It goes for $60 for a glass and is an amazing Chardonnay.
Saint Patricks Square
(09) 368 4129