Melbourne wine consultant Mark Protheroe on his most memorable wines
“These wines are about the people who’ve helped me along the way and provided that ‘light bulb’ moment. It’s the people who provide the extra layers to the wine experience.”
01 1990 Champagne Pol Roger
This was the first wine that kick-started my love for Champagne, particularly those that have a little bottle age on them. This wine was the first Champagne I’d tasted that showed so much flavour, interest, depth and complexity. It was also a wine that was stocked in a bottle shop near me in the early 2000s, and I used to drink it with my wife in the early parts of our relationship, so it has very happy memories. After this wine, I looked for Champagne that gives you a level of richness and age. It gave me an early feel for that style.
02 Tyrrell’s Vat 1 Semillon
An early mentor was Russell Green, who had worked at Brown Brothers for a long time.
I’d moved to Beechworth as a 17-year-old from Albury and worked with his son, and I’d go for a Monday roast at his house with his family. It was always a wine lesson for me – Russell noticed my interest in wine and encouraged it as much as he could. He’d pull out older semillon and riesling, and younger ones too. We had a lot of Vat 1 from the 1970s, which led me to fall in love with aged Hunter semillon. Flavours seemed to come out of nowhere in those bottles. I saw how well Australian whites aged and the world of wine opened up to me.
03 Sorrenberg Gamay
Sorrenberg’s Barry Morey was another big influence on me while I was working at a one-hatted venue [Parlour and Pantry] in Beechworth. I’d often spend the day working with him, learning about wine production. It was a no-holds-barred approach – I could ask him anything. Growing up on an orange farm in Leeton [in the NSW Riverina], I was familiar with agriculture, but this introduced me to winemaking. His Gamay was a wine we had fun with at the restaurant. People had heard of pinot noir, but not really gamay at that stage. It was completely new and a revelatory experience for me.
04 La Spinetta Barbaresco Cru Gallina
This was the first wine I splashed out on from Italy and it started my love affair with Italian wines [Mark was formerly group sommelier for
Guy Grossi’s venues]. I bought three wines from this producer, from the same appellation and same year, and it was a ‘light bulb’ moment. I was blown away by the fact you could have three blocks of land so close to each other and each wine could taste so incredibly different. This wine stood out because it had the elegance and perfume of some of the Burgundies I’d seen, but immense tannin structure and mouthfeel with a savouriness to it.
05 Dr Loosen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett
When I was working in Edinburgh, I did a tasting with Ernie [Loosen].
I’d already been exposed to his wines, but at this tasting, he talked about the red and blue slate of the two wines [the drier-style Red Slate and fruit-driven Blue Slate] and that was the first moment for me where I could see the actual impact of soil on the flavour profile of the wines. It made me want to further explore how soil can have a massive impact in this way, and I think riesling is the ultimate conduit of where it’s grown.