Q & A with Sommelier & Wine Director of Attica, Jane Lopes
Hailing from California’s famous Napa Valley, Jane Lopes is a sommelier and Wine Director for Melbourne’s world-famous Attica restaurant. Her passion for wine stems from a youth spent tending bars across the United States’ more ‘colourful’ establishments including the Violet Hour in Chicago and contributing to the success of New York’s Eleven Madison Park. Jane took the time to talk with Wine Selectors about her illustrious career and recently published book Vignette which recommends 100 wines to expand your palate alongside personal stories of triumph and defeat.
You were born in Napa, California. How did your location and upbringing shape your wine career?
I like to say that wine is in my blood because I was born in Napa. But it certainly wasn’t in my mouth. We weren’t a wine family. My parents would have a glass of wine from time to time, but it wasn’t a feature.
You’ve worked at some fantastic establishments with some very distinguished restaurateurs and featured in many notable publications. What are your most memorable career highlights so far?
I have been lucky to work in some amazing places. The kind of places where everything just feels heightened and special. Bartending at the Violet Hour at the age of 21 was a highlight. So was opening the Catbird Seat in Nashville, Tennessee. Being on the team that brought Eleven Madison Park to #1 in the world on the San Pellegrino’s 50 Best List was incredibly rewarding. And taking on my role here at Attica – and moving across the world – has been a new challenge and treat. Those four places probably most define my professional career, but there are several other stints along the way that are near and dear to my heart.
What has been your favourite country to work in and why?
Well, there are only two options here! Both the United States and Australia are amazing countries to work in, both with great wine production and consumption scenes. If I had to pick a city, I might give the slight edge to New York. There’s nothing quite like the level of variety, exposure, and availability of wine that exists in that city!
What advice would you give to other women in the wine industry?
Probably the advice I would give anyone: work hard and be kind.
What’s the best part about being a sommelier and working at Attica?
I’ve really enjoyed the exposure to the great wines of Victoria. I’ve never worked at a restaurant before that’s right in the midst of a world-class wine region, and the access and proximity to the wines is a lot of fun.
What sets Attica apart from other fine dining establishments you’ve worked at?
The focus on work-life balance is much more at the fore at Attica than many restaurants of its calibre. We’re able to do what we do, and create an exemplary experience for our guests, while still promoting our own sleep, health, hobbies, and relationships.
How do you decide which wines to include on Attica’s extensive wine list?
I try to focus on representing Victoria first and foremost. From new and exciting styles to established and classic ones. The problem is, there’s too much good stuff! I end up having to do a bit of Tetris to get all the exceptional Victorian wine on the list. After that, I work outward, featuring some great wines from the rest of Australia, New Zealand, Europe, the US, and South Africa. I really try to have something for every palate and price point. And I work hard to source wines that are aged, small-production, or rare; because the pleasure in a great list is drinking wines that are quite unique.
If you had to pick a favourite wine on the list, which one would it be and why?
Hmmm…tough one! Right now, there’s a 1989 Trimbach Clos Ste. Hune Vendanges Tardives on the list that will undoubtedly be spectacular.
What’s your favourite wine varietal?
Also tough. Riesling is my go-to white wine. And for reds, I tend to return to Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, and Grenache with most frequency.
What’s your ultimate wine and food match?
Peanut butter M&Ms and a Manhattan (not quite wine, but a great match!).
You have a new book coming out called: Vignette- Stories of Life and Wine in 100 Bottles. What’s it about, and what inspired you to write this book?
Vignette is a personal narrative exploring my life in wine. It couples this narrative with visual wine education – graphs, charts, maps, surveys, games – to encourage the reader to develop both an emotional and intellectual relationship to wine. And to have a bit of fun! I’ve wanted to write a book for a long time, and an agent actually reached out to me in New York to encourage me to do so! His idea was very different from what I ended up developing, but I am grateful to him for making me believe it was possible.
Who will love this book?
If you love wine, or even if you just want to feel a bit closer to it, this book is for you. I think everyone could stand to make their relationship with wine a bit more personal and a bit more fun.
Where can wine lovers purchase this fantastic resource?
Hardie Grant’s website currently lists all the places available for order, and it will surely be expanding in the weeks to come!
What is your favourite…
- Animal: Cat
- Holiday destination: Mexico City
- Film: The Princess Bride
- Dessert: Anything with chocolate and peanut butter
- Book: House of Leaves