Q&A with Halliday

Fast Five: James Welsh

By Nola James

19 Mar, 2024

In this series, we ask industry members to share the five drinks that shaped their lives.

Sommelier James Welsh is co-owner of iconic Launceston restaurant Stillwater, where he started out as a young waiter in 2004. A highly regarded voice in the wine industry, Len Evans Tutorial Scholar and wine show judge, James curates Stillwater’s multi-award-winning wine list, showcasing his deep passion Tasmanian wine and winemakers. 

James Welsh

01. 1983 Domaine Armand Rousseau Chambertin Clos-de-Beze
Burgundy, France
This wine marked a profound moment in my life. It featured during the 2015 Len Evans Tutorial, on the second night’s dinner, and was a transformative experience. I found myself retreating to my hotel room in the Hunter Valley mid-dinner, needing a moment to collect my emotions. Truly, it was a wine that moved me to tears – an embodiment of power, grace, and elegance. I have forever used this wine as the yardstick and am yet to find another wine that overwhelmed me in this way.

02. 2009 Sylvain Cathiard Vosne-Romanée
Burgundy, France
In Burgundy in 2013, amidst an impromptu lunch with a dear friend and wine writer, I had the pleasure of savouring the 2009 Sylvain Cathiard Vosne-Romanée. It was an experience to enjoy the craftsmanship of this iconic and hard-to-find producer, right in the heart of the vineyards. Our meal included delicacies like snails, beef bourguignon, and a decadent crème brûlée, which seemed effortless but so damn tasty. The memory of that moment has stayed with me throughout my entire career, as I’ve consistently sought out and celebrated this exceptional producer. Jeez, I wish it was easier to find!

03. 2008 Giacomo Conterno Cascina Francia
Barolo, Italy
Sipped in a quaint salumi bar in Rome, this wine revealed intricate layers of flavours, unveiling ripe red fruits like cherry and raspberry, accompanied by subtleties of truffle, tar, and a unique minerality. The tannins, firm yet refined enhanced the wine’s structure and age-worthiness; a seamless equilibrium existed between the wine’s acidity and the opulence of its fruit. In essence, it epitomised the meticulous craftsmanship and timeless style synonymous with the Conterno legacy. This producer struck such a cord that I named my son Giacomo.

04. 1999 Salon Brut Le Mesnil
Champagne, France
My initial encounter with the 1999 Salon was during a masterclass in 2014, led by the esteemed Fran Austin of Delamere Vineyards. Access to such a rare wine, boasting only 37 vintages over the past century, left an indelible mark. This vintage transformed my perspective on the pursuit of quality, emphasising the significance of crafting wines exclusively in exceptional years – a principle I now hold in high regard. As Tasmania continues to make strides in the realm of sparkling wine, this pivotal moment remains a constant reference point for me.

05. 2002 Meadowbank Estate FGR Riesling
In 2002, I discovered Meadowbank FGR Riesling, sadly no longer made, marking the beginning of my journey into the world of wine. As a young and inexperienced drinker of lemon-lime Vodka Cruisers, this riesling holds a special place as chapter one of my wine adventures. After first experiencing it at the Taste of Tasmania in Hobart, I promptly returned home to purchase a case – my first – from the Pinot Shop in Launceston. Meadowbank must be one of the best sites in Tas, and with winemaker Pete Dredge at the wheel, what could go wrong? 

Instagram: @jimmywelsh, @stillwatertasmania