Q&A with Halliday

In conversation with Matt Preston

By Anna Webster

16 Aug, 2022

Known for his extravagant suits and trademark cravats, former Masterchef Australia judge, television personality, ABC radio host, journalist and cookbook author Matt Preston tells us about his love affair with wine, and what he'd serve at his ultimate meal.

Matt Preston

H. What made you fall in love with wine?
MP. Wine and I had been friends for years but love only really blossomed when I had my first bottle of Château d’Yquem. It was everything and I woke the next morning still tasting echoes. Now that is length.

H. How important is wine and food matching for you?
MP. Over the years I have found truly great food and wine matches surprisingly rare. When you find them they are truly chilling and almost transcendental, but too often the claims are over-reaching wank and lies. Most of the time I get more pleasure out of drinking good wine as its own main event – cracking a bottle of good Aussie pinot to drink as the sun goes down over the dunes or the cliched bottle of shiraz by the fire after a brisk walk on a windy beach. I’d like to call it 'mindful drinking' but that would be way too pretentious!

H. What’s your favourite wine or style at the moment?
MP. Bold, rich Australian chardonnays with a little age are my current weakness.

H. What are your favourite wine regions?
MP. I love the Clare and Eden Valleys, Bellarine/Bannockburn and Victoria’s North-East but that is as much for the people and the beauty of the environment as the wine. Overall though I tend to have favourite vineyards rather than favourite regions.

H. Which wine region is still on your bucket list to visit one day?
MP. Burgundy.

H. Do you collect wine? 
MP. I buy wine I love and store it but I’m hardly a collector. As a completist I’d struggle with this!

H. How would you describe your collection?
MP. Mostly drunk and enjoyed! And then with the remaining few bottles, they sit in a state of statis as I agonise about the perfect time to drink them. Sharing great wine with people that will appreciate it is the key parameter here – although there is a loveliness of selfishly opening a bottle for yourself, drinking it slowly and enjoying how the wine changes over the evening.

H. Do you remember the first wine you cellared?
MP. It was either some of Charlie Melton’s or a case of 1996 Château Kirwan and two cases of Château de Fargues (’89 and ’90). My mum is a Kirwan so that one was sentimental, the de Fargues was because I couldn’t afford Yquem!

H. Have you had any cellaring disasters?
MP. Other than the occasional label falling off or leaving the last bottle of Haut-Brion until it tasted like chewing an old belt, no.

H. What’s the oldest wine you’ve tried?
MP. There was a 1896 d’Yquem that was badly recorked. A tragedy. Other than that, a 1945 Bordeaux was memorable for far happier reasons.

H. What’s been your best-ever bargain wine?
MP. De Bortoli Sacred Hill Cabernet Merlot at $3 a bottle. I used to do Stuart Gregor’s annual tasting for his wine guide back in the day. It was a blind tasting, and this wine was a big, big surprise. It happily eclipsed wines six times the price. Buy a decanter and leave an empty bottle of Bordeaux on the kitchen bench and people who should know better were fooled. Haven’t drunk it for 15 years but I feel now I need to go back there. There was also that time before Aussie riesling became fashionable when Petaluma was $9 a bottle. Good times!

H. Are there any wine styles you don’t like?
MP. I used to say New Zealand sauvignon blanc but after a series of holidays in sweaty tropical Queensland I can see it had its place for lunch there! And who didn’t like Cloudy Bay when David Hohnen started making it? I do struggle with those trendy wines that sell faults as ‘character’. I know cider vinegar is a superfood but…

H. Are there any wines you never used to like, but now love? 
MP. Riesling but only ever since buying a mixed case of aged rieslings that James Halliday had selected from his collection at a charity auction. I now have this as another expensive weakness. 

H. What’s one of your most memorable wine and food experiences?
MP. Lamb chops and a 1945 Château Lafite Rothschild at Vue de Monde for one of Shannon Bennett’s special dinners. A bottle of Fleurie and roast duck and cherries at El Celler de Can Roca with the woman I love. Pitu Roca is one of the most inciteful somms out there. Drinking an old bottle of Bill Chambers’ tokay with Saskia Beer’s cured meats in Maggie and Colin’s kitchen – so much more than salt and sweet bumping up together.

H. What’s your all-time favourite food and wine match?
MP. For reliability, Sauternes and chicken liver parfait – but a great Rutherglen muscat and blue cheese goes close. 

H. What would you serve to drink and eat at your ultimate meal? 
MP. Well as you are paying – and your budget is HUGE – let’s take a flight of Crawford River rieslings to start with the seafood course (and a nice 1996 Chablis on the side as a treat). We’ll have to have an excellent chicken parfait (free of any bitterness, please note) to eat with toast and a bottle of d’Yquem (1945 or 1959 please). Let’s also have a couple of bottles of Burgundy from the 1996 vintage – perhaps a couple of bottles of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti for the red, and a bottle of Domaine Leflaive Montrachet for the white. We’ll need a veg course to go with these – perhaps roast beetroots and Roquefort, some butter-braised leeks with scallops, and some vol au vent of roast morels and porcini with almonds.

The second bottle of DRC could also last through the duck and meat course. Can we find some nicely aged D’meure, Giaconda and Best's chardonnays, and something selected from Nat White’s era at Main Ridge Estate, to go with my mum’s roast chicken? We better have a bottle of Curly Flat pinot gris here too. With the duck dish, a good bottle of Domaine A Reserve Pinot Noir plus something sexy and Victorian from the great Phillip Jones, Gary Farr, Michael Dhillon, Tom Carson and, of course, Kathleen Quealy. 

Next, it’s a wood-grilled aged tomahawk with a Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier 2018, which should be nicely aged by then as I’m thinking this meal might take a few years to plan!

For dessert, an old but still lively bottle of South African Vin de Constance from Klein Constantia, a bottle of good port from 1963, and let’s open a flight of rare muscats from Rutherglen (Morris, Campbell, Chambers Rosewood, All Saints and Pfeiffer must be included please) to go with the dessert trolley, the cheeseboard table, and the chocolate selection. We’ll be lingering here for a while. Then let’s finally wander off to the fire to finish with either a good bottle of Domaine A Reserve pinot or a bottle of 2008 Royal Tokaji Essencia.

H. Do you have any guilty pleasures when it comes to wine or food?
MP. Guilt has no place when it comes to pleasure at the table unless its ethical guilt, in which case I’d avoid it. Otherwise for me it doesn’t matter if you are drinking a kalimoxto made with the roughest Rioja or an expensive moment from Alsace. There may be regret later but never guilt! Savour the moment!

H. What’s your favourite piece of wine advice?
MP. Drink less to drink better!

H. Favourite wine conundrum?
MP. How come wine options games are seldom won by wine experts?

This article appears in issue #65 of Halliday magazineBecome a member to receive the print publication as well as digital access.