During her former career of 10 years as a chef, Pip Anderson developed a lot of love for wine. And so, when an opportunity for her to study the subject arose, she took it, was converted, and her career as a sommelier has flourished ever since. She has won awards for her wine lists and held desired titles, including Merivale Group Sommelier and more recently, Wine Director of The Source Restaurant in Tasmania . explore DRINKS caught up with Pip to discuss Champagne myths, the best vintages and how to take the fear factor out of looking at an extensive wine list.
explore DRINKS: Do you have a rule of thumb for pairing specific styles and varietals with food?
Pip Anderson: One does try to look for balance with food and wine pairing; looking for similar acid and flavour profiles in each dish and pairing it to similar characteristics in wine. That being said, sometimes pairing what you may think is the polar opposite ends up working really well. The incredible part of this side of the industry is that everyone’s palates are different and diverse.
I personally have a high tolerance to bitterness, meaning I can find delight in most wine and food pairings. But, I need to bear in mind that my guests may be highly sensitive to bitterness, which means they could find a particular pairing unbearable. The easiest way to determine someone’s palate is to find out what kind of coffee they drink. If it’s a short or long black or even black tea, I can safely assume they have a high tolerance to bitter and acidic properties in comparison to someone who drinks a latte.
eD: For some, a wine list can be quite overwhelming. What’s key to look for when selecting a good quality wine?
PA: A good wine list, despite how large or small, will cover a breadth of styles and price points in a clear and concise manner to assist a customer in making a decision. If there is a sommelier, engage with them. Tell them what you like to drink and what you have enjoyed in the past. It can be a bit like an options game – we are here to help narrow the selection down for you and ensure you will be drinking something you will enjoy.
eD: There are a number of myths around how best to store an opened bottle of Champagne, can you share what you believe is the best way to maintain the bubbles?
PA: When storing Champagne after opening, it needs to be about retaining the atmospheres (the bubbles) in the wine. So the ‘myth’ of the silver spoon in the neck of the bottle is not going to assist in retaining those atmospheres when the wine is in contact with air. A Champagne stopper is the most effective, as it is sealing the wine closed. There are also some expensive gas induced machines on the market which do work, but at the end of the day there is only one way to preserve the freshness and mousse (bubbles), in Champagne; drink the whole bottle!
eD: There are a number of different styles of Champagne glassware, what style do you best recommend?
PA: Flutes are popular and they do serve as a sign of celebration. The saucers/coupes that were popular in the prohibition times (1920s) look great, but are fairly tricky to drink from after the second or third glass… too many Champagnes have been a casualty to being spilt out of these. Riedel will be phasing out the flutes for a white wine styled Champagne glass from 2021. This is a cause of debate at the moment; as most, I believe that this will be better, as the deeper the glass bowl, the more aromas are detected. There will be some initial backlash as the flutes have been a staple glassware for decades now, so it is imperative we are all talking to our customers and getting them ready for this transition.
eD: In your opinion, what is the best vintage for Champagne and sparkling wines?
PA: There are many great vintages and of cours, it does also come down to the Champagne House and their level of quality. For Champagne 1996, 1999, 2005 were definitely spectacular, with 2008 looking to be quite promising as well.
eD: What Champagne and sparkling houses would you recommended visiting?
PA: The top five will always gain the attention they deserve: Veuve Clicquot, Moet & Chandon, Ruinart, Bollinger, Billecart-Salmon and Taittinger as Houses are definitely worth seeing. And if time permits, seeking the smaller, grower-based Champagne houses, which offer another way of looking into Champagne: Larmandier Bernier and Jacquesson would be my recommendations.
eD: Do you have any preference for New World versus Old World wines?
PA: I don’t have a preference, as it would be like asking who is my favourite child. I love both styles of wine and there is a time and place for both these wines to be enjoyed. Food will usually dictate the direction of my wine choice.
eD: For anyone looking to become a sommelier or further his or her wine knowledge, what advice can you give?
PA: Jump in feet first! Wine is a history degree.. with a lot of passion! The breadth and depth never ceases. Be passionate about learning more, and get tasting. Taste everything. Attend as many trade days and masterclasses as possible, and if you are already working in a restaurant or wine bar, ask your colleagues to let you taste the wines they open. It’s all about training your palate memory.
The Sydney Wine Academy at Ryde Tafe offers the Wine & Spirit Education (WSET) courses, from Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced, to Diploma levels, which are a basic requirement nowadays on the floor. As is the Court Of Master Sommeliers (CMS) Certified, which was just recently in Sydney.
eD: Who do you most admire in the wine industry?
PA: That’s an easy one. Franck Moreau MS.