Q&A with Halliday

In conversation with Deborah Hutton

By Amelia Ball
Long-time wine lover and media personality Deborah Hutton shares a few of her favourite things – including her hidden cellar.

Wine lover and media personality, Deborah Hutton. 

H. What made you fall in love with wine?
DI never really had one of those lightbulb moments. When you’ve got a young palate, you don’t know much or have the confidence to say which wines you prefer. As you start doing more research and taking an interest, your palate changes and you’re exposed to more interesting wines, continually collecting more information. Then one day you’re old enough and ugly enough to say, “This is what I like!” It’s now come to the point where most people will hand me the wine list, but I don’t take wine that seriously. I’m not a wine wanker. I don’t study it that much, but I know what I like and what I don’t.

H. What are your favourite wine regions and styles?
D Definitely the Clare Valley; I’m a big riesling fan. When I first started drinking wine, we only really had sweet, German-style rieslings, and we’ve come such a long way. I think dry, crisp riesling suits our climate and the way we eat so well. Then there’s chardonnay – I don’t mind a buttery chardonnay to break it up a bit. And I have a huge love of pinot noir and Burgundy.

H. How has your palate changed over time?
DI find it challenging to drink heavier styles these days. I love a beautiful shiraz or tempranillo, but my palate doesn’t quite take the weight anymore. I often entertain at home and a number of friends have substantial cellars, so they will come in carrying a few interesting, beautifully balanced wines, such as aged cabernet or shiraz, like an old Rockford. I totally appreciate these wines, but I’m good with just a glass.

H. What can you tell us about your cellar?
DI knew I wanted a proper cellar when I redesigned this house, but decided I didn’t want to look at it. For me, it wasn’t about showing it off. So we designed this beautiful timber-panelled wall that disguises the pantry, which I call “the coffee shop”, and the cellar, which I call “the panic room”. People often ask why I didn’t want a glass door for the cellar and make it all sexy, but this is much more the style of the house. It’s tucked away and such a lovely surprise. Vine and Vault custom-designed it for me, and it’s all oak and grey, with timber wine boxes and movable shelves. It’s not feminine, but definitely more so than most wine cellars. It’s a delight!

H. What sort of wines have you got in there
D On one side is my white wines, the other side is reds, in the middle I’ve got Champagne, and then I’ve got little hidden areas for the bottles I tend to put down. I could almost do a vertical tasting of Grosset Polish Hill Riesling going back about 15 years – and I’ve got a lovely selection of pinot noir, from Central Otago and the Mornington Peninsula to Tasmania and Burgundy. Then I’ve got some quaffers – the ones for when your 12-hour lunches turn into 13-hour lunches and you have to try not to bring out the good stuff!

H. Have you had any cellaring disasters?
DThere are always bottles that you tend to not want to touch. The ones you think are so special you have to wait for the right moment to open them, but then you wait too long. That’s happened a couple of times.

H. Are you more relaxed about opening the good ones these days?
DIt always depends on the people, but I love nothing more than when you’re with someone you adore – you could be eating a meat pie, it doesn’t matter – and think, ‘Stuff it, let’s rip one of these out’. I love it for the company. Life is a special occasion.

H. Are there any wines you can’t learn to love?
DIf someone walks into my house with a bottle of sauvignon blanc, they will never know I have a wine cellar. If there’s one style I’ll run from, it’s that.

H. Do you have a favourite region to visit?
DI think the Mornington Peninsula and Yarra Valley are just so beautiful, with so many interesting restaurants and places to stay. The other favourite is Margaret River – I used to spend many holidays there.

H.  Do you have any other favourite drinks?
DI always have beer in the same way: when I’ve finished 18 holes of golf, and I’m hot and thirsty. I always want the world’s coldest beer and I only ever have the one, but there’s nothing better than an icy cold beer in that moment.

H.  Do you have an all-time favourite food and wine match?
D I do a really beautiful, gigantic prawn cocktail salad with lovely lemon zest through it. I often do it in summer when I’ve got friends coming around, and I like to serve that with rosé.

H.  Is there any area of wine you’re still keen to learn more about?
DEvery time I’m given an Italian wine list, I feel like I’m missing some knowledge and wish I knew more about it.

H.  What’s your best piece of wine advice?
DFinish the bottle!

This story first appeared in issue #50 of Halliday Magazine – current issue on sale now.