Drinking Victoria: Jane Lopes

Published on 2 September 2019

Photo: Author and Attica wine director Jane Lopes

Jane Lopes is the wine director of Attica. An American-born sommelier, she has worked at some of the most prestigious places to get a drink in the US, New York’s Eleven Madison Park, The Catbird Seat in Nashville, and The Violet Hour in Chicago among them. This month she has published her first book, Vignette. Subtitled “Stories of Life and Wine in 100 Bottles” it’s part-memoir, part-wine guide and partly a masterclass in how to taste. It’s frank, surprising, and not like any other wine book on the market. Jane jokes that the best thing about it is that it finally put her University of Chicago literature degree to good use – we’re glad she did. Ahead of the book’s publication we checked in with Jane to see what she’s been drinking and thinking since she sent the book to press.

When someone hands me a wine list in a restaurant, I am out of the conversation for at least 10 minutes.

The last truly delicious thing I drank was 2017 Fighting Gully Road Black Label Sangiovese. I’d never had the wines before and tasted them with [viticulturist] Mark Walpole at Attica. I loved the whole line of reserve wines, but the I found the sangiovese particularly compelling. It's one of those sangioveses that can take new oak and come out regal rather than oaky. The fruit is that good.

As far as I’m concerned, the defining place to get a drink in Melbourne/Victoria is a winery or tasting room because it's so special to be able to hit the road, get out of town, and hang out in world-class wine regions. My husband and I were recently in the Alpine Valleys, and stumbled upon Billy Button's tasting room. It was such a fun, relaxing afternoon. Wine just tastes better when it's drunk in its home region.

If I were to choose a Victorian drink purely on the strength of its label, I’d go for Patrick Sullivan. His labels are just so whimsical, detailed, and precise – kind of like the wines.

The Victorian spirit I’m digging the most right now is Original Spirits EXQ Harvest Blend. A complex herbal liqueur, it's like the green Chartreuse of Australia. Serving it neat in a snifter after dinner is perfect.

There’s no better value on a Victorian wine list/in a bottle-shop in this state than 2018 Crawford River Young Vine Riesling. This wine retails for about $30 and is one of the best rieslings made in Australia. Period. I really love the direction that Belinda [Thomson, chief winemaker] has taken the winemaking in; this wine is fragrant, expressive, bright, and balanced.

For me, the most inspiring person in the Victorian drinks world is my husband, Jon [Ross] because he balances running the Rockpool beverage programs with making wine (2019 shiraz, pinot gris, and cinsault just bottled!) and still manages to do the dishes at home. The label is called Micro Wines, and everyone should check it out.

Grab your copy of Jane Lopes’ book, Vignette($40, Hardie-Grant), from all good bookshops this month. You can also catch Jane on the pour on the floor at Attica (74 Glen Eira Rd, Ripponlea), and follow her further adventures on Instagram at @janeymaxine.