FOR a self-taught wine buff Natasha Court has done pretty well, finding her way to one of the top jobs in her industry.
As Must Winebar sommelier Ms Court is responsible for the establishment’s extensive wine list, one that was recently awarded the prestigious Gourmet Traveller Wine List of the Year Award.
Landing a job that involves talking, tasting, and purchasing wine 24 hours a day, seven days a week, was a process the university politics student is modest about.
“I did waitressing at university and wine people came and went [at the restaurant], so eventually someone had to do the list. I decided it might as well have been me,” she says.
“I rang up a few people I knew and asked if they could teach me how to write a list.
“I was 21 or 22 at the time.”
An inquisitive nature has helped Ms Court compile a great wine list, with much of her knowledge gained from books, family, and industry heavyweights.
“I’ve always been interested and it,” she says.
“I’m not good at liking something I don’t know much about.
“If I like something I want to know why and how, so I read everything about it.
“Terry Chellappah, Xanadu’s general manager, was a big influence on me. I worked for him at Toledo’s in Northbridge.
“He’s an Essendon supporter and I’m sure I got the job because I was wearing a red jacket with a big black strip.
“I read the Oxford Companion at breakfast. I just flip open a page and read it.
“I wanted to find out what foreign wines were.
“Most of us just learn about local wines. I wanted to find out about these wines and drive consumers to them, rather than having wines that are consumer driven.”
Must Winebar founder Anne-Marie Banting was another influence on Ms Court.
Since Ms Banting left the venue Ms Court has full responsibility for staff training, wine list management, and tending to the cellar.
Must’s stock is estimated to be worth $100,000.
Ms Court says the winebar’s 13-page wine list has something for everyone, even if it’s not easily recognised.
“We might have someone come in and ask for Goundrey Unwooded. We’ll tell them we don’t have that but then suggest something else they’d really like.
“We can do that because we understand the wines and their characteristics,” she says.
“Most people like unwooded chardonnay because it’s fruity but not too sweet. We don’t charge people for a splash of wine to try it.”
But Ms Court’s talent for knowing what drop is best for her patrons often keeps her working well after knock-off time.
“I’ll get phone calls at home from some of the staff but I also get phone calls from friends who are in the bottle shop deciding what to get,” she says.
“But I like the HR side of my job. I love teaching people about wine and we do that here all the time. Every Saturday at 4pm we have staff training.”
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