2 minutes with Clare Burder
Occupation: wine educator & wine producer
Business: The Humble Tumbler | Eminence Wines | Vintuition
Where did your love of wine spark from?
I grew up in the King Valley when the beginning of wine & food tourism was happening, this was in the late 90’s- it was really exciting for local people that there was an opportunity to move into tourism as a way of diversifying their wine & food businesses. From 14, I worked at the local pub (Mountain View Hotel) which had a great local wine list, not to mention all the wine growing families who were our customers – I guess it was kind of osmotic the way that wine became something we learned & talked about. My mum and dad planted their first block of vines when I was 16 – I helped to plant the block and worked every summer & school holidays in the vineyard too. In retrospect, there was probably no hope of doing anything else!
What inspired you to launch The Humble Tumbler?
I always had an itch to be a business owner – and four years ago when I started there was only a few options in Melbourne if you wanted to learn about wine. Most were WSET and the rest were stuffy, boring traditional courses. I wrote the four-week course wine course from scratch – consulting my friends heavily in the name of ‘research’ - then the whisky, gin & sake programs followed later. The wine course strips it back to what wine is about to me: social & food focused, with great stories about local producers, great regions and great wine. No wank, no pretension and no wrong answers. Plus, it's damned good fun.
Tell us about your family vineyard & Eminence Wines?
Mum and Dad own the Eminence vineyard in Whitlands (near Mansfield), which is the highest in Victoria at 870 m above sea level, they live there also. The cold spot means it's ideal for growing grapes for sparkling wine particularly. We sell most of the grapes but make a tiny range of wines under two labels – Le Peche Mignon (pinot grigio, pinot noir & dry rose) & The Assembly (fancy vintage sparkling). It’s a peculiar place to grow grapes, the weather/climate is quite brutal but in the good years the wines are focused & characterful. It’s a special thing to be able to create wine from the place that I consider to be ‘home’. I might never be able to say exactly what that means but I know that it’s very meaningful.
You love to cook, so for dinner parties at your house do you choose the wine or the food first?
A good dinner party to me is essentially as good as life gets – I love it. The only thing anyone really needs to know about wine and food matching is to try and align the weight of the food with the weight of the wine – but even that is full of exceptions. Theoretically, you should choose the wine first because you can change the dish to suit. So if you chargrill red meat, for example – you add more flavour (& bitterness) than roasting, so technically speaking it will match well to a powerful red wine rather than roasting, which might be better with something more medium bodied. Having said that, I’m not particularly structured in my approach – I like occasionally to have a special bottle with a special dish but beyond that, it’s about sharing interesting wines with your favourite people. Eating dinner only lasts 10 minutes anyway!
Tips on choosing and drinking sake?
Sake is a complex, intriguing drink - which is wonderful with lighter food – especially raw meat, anything with egg, soy or kelp, grilled lighter meat and surprisingly, soft white mould cheese – this is because sake is relatively high in the ‘umami’ taste. Helpfully, the Japanese are quite pragmatic about price in relation to quality – they’ll rarely try to price the sake for more than it’s worth. Obviously, we have variables here with importation & restaurant lists however step one is buy the best you can afford. Step two is to buy either of these four categories: ginjo, junmai ginjo, daiginjo or junmai daiginjo. These are the highest quality sake which are most likely going to be dry, and best served cold–ish. Step three is to give it some attention – take note of the aromatics and when you have the first sip swish it around your mouth the get the full character. Step four is to buy it fresh (open bottles might last two weeks if you’re lucky), and lastly, I’d recommend doing a tasting flight of sake at a restaurant to get a feel for your preference. With serving temperature, if you choose one of the above categories, serve it cold and see what happens as it warms. There is no perfect temperature; it’s mostly about personal preference.
You have published the black book to drinking, Tipsy, what's in it and how can we get a copy?
It’s a casual guide to adventurous drinking – it covers wine, whisky, gin, beer, sake, aperitif/digestif and other delicious things: how they’re made, where flavours come from, how to buy them, drink them, talk about them and match them to various edibles. You can buy signed copies from The Humble Tumbler website, in store at Readings/Dymocks etc or online at Booktopia.
You can follow Clare on Instagram @clare_burder