At-home wine pairings: Laurent Rospars

Published on 14 October 2020

Want to know the wines that go best with the dishes you’ve got on high rotation at home? We asked sommelier Laurent Rospars of The Prince Hotel and Little Prince Wine for his picks.

Laurent Rospars’ career in food and wine began at a young age: when he was just three, in fact. He started by trimming beans at his great grandmother’s Relais Hôtel Restaurant in the Loire Valley and by age 10 he was shucking oysters at the seafood institution Prat-Ar-Coum in Brittany for pocket money. Weekends were spent helping his grandfather produce and bottle chenin blanc and cabernet franc from the family vineyard, where he learned that the quality of a wine lies in the simplicity of its execution.

These early experiences sparked a career that took Rospars all over the world, working in kitchens in Europe, Hong Kong, the United States, the Middle East and eventually Melbourne. After arriving here 30 years ago, Rospars headed up the kitchen of several of the city’s most revered venues including Rogalsky’s, Trezinis, and the Quarter Session before turning his attention to wine. Today he’s the sommelier across The Prince Hotel’s venues, including the recently opened Little Prince Wine, a wine bar with an underground cellar where Rospars can show off what he’s loving at the moment, whether that’s drops from the group’s sister businesses, Mitchelton wines and Nagambie Brewery and Distillery, or things from further afield. These are his picks for some of our home-cooked favourites.

Lasagne – A meaty wine goes perfectly with a meaty lasagne. For a Victorian drop, try the Ish 2018 Sangiovese from the King Valley. Otherwise I can’t go past a classic Italian drop for a classic Italian dish: the 2016 Brancaia Chianti Classico.

Dan dan noodles – The 2019 Mitchelton Blackwood Park riesling: it has strong citrus characters on the nose – think lime leaf and lemon blossom, with a little bit of honeysuckle – and in the glass, there’s good acid and a hint of lemon rind. It’s a perfect match for the earthy sweetness of dan dan noodles.

Roast chicken – Did you know that I make the best roast chicken you’ll ever eat? I put tarragon and butter underneath the skin and stuff the cavity with a whole head of garlic. If I’m going to have the best roast chicken in the world, I need to have the best chardonnay in the world to go with it, so my pick is the 2018 Giaconda Estate Vineyard chardonnay from Beechworth. We stock it at Little Prince Wine Store – come in and say hi or send us an email if you’d like to order some.

Ma po tofu – This dish is crying out for a really classic-style lager. I like Brick Lane’s Base Lager: it’s crisp and refreshing, the perfect balance for the oily spiciness of this dish. A real palate cleanser.

Instant noodles – I always reach for Nagambie Brewery Pale Ale from our sister business in central Victoria. Floral on the nose, then smooth and creamy with a tropical finish, it's like a warm summer night on the beach.

Spag Bol – My pick is the Bress cabernet franc, made in the Harcourt Valley near Bendigo. I’d actually drink this wine with anything. Cabernet franc is the most accommodating grape for any food with its soft tannins and interesting fruit. Very few people can do a straight cabernet franc well, but then very few people can do spaghetti Bolognese well.

A splash-out red for a really good steak – There’s a good reason why Argentinians drink so much malbec. It really is the perfect wine for top-notch steak. I love the 2018 malbec by Rob Hall Harriet’s Vineyard. You can see yourself riding a horse in the pampas in Mendoza when you drink this. You feel like a gaucho.

Basque cheesecake – A glass of Izzara Jaune liqueur because it also hails from the Basque countryside. The gentle spice and rich honey notes round out the toasty caramel of the cheesecake. If you’re looking for something local, I can’t go past Campbell’s Grand Rutherglen Muscat.

Babka – I recently found a bottle of Mitchelton Estate Grown Heathcote shiraz from 2010 in the Prince Dining Room cellar. It's the first vintage they ever made. I thought to myself, what on earth will I drink that with? Then I thought, I know just the thing: I’ll have that with babka. The soft fruit and hint of liquorice in the wine make it a surprisingly good match for the sweetness of the babka. If you don’t find yourself in possession of a 2010 Mitchelton shiraz, go for the 2017 vintage.


Speed round

Picnic wine – The Curly Flat Macedon Sparkling pairs perfectly with chicken sandwiches (or any sandwich really) and let's face it: a bottle of really good sparkling wine will transform even the most banal picnic into a special occasion. Depending on your picnic spot, keep it cool in the lake or the river.

Go-to beer – Anything brewed by Nagambie is my favourite beer at the moment. I can’t wait for head brewer Jamie to make a pilsner (nudge nudge).

Favourite well-priced everyday white – Mac Forbes Experimental Batch chenin blanc. Chenin blanc is the most accommodating wine with food, in my opinion, plus it’s incredible on its own. It’s my favourite white wine variety because it’s so versatile. I can’t believe this is Mac Forbes’ first crack at a chenin – it’s that good.

Favourite well-priced everyday red – Bress Cabernet Franc. This wine reminds me of fishing trips with my grandfather when we’d keep the cab franc cool on a hot summer’s day by placing the bottle straight in the water.

Favourite spirit or cocktail at home - My partner Sian’s Margarita, made with homemade vanilla and brown sugar syrup and 50 per cent lemon, 50 per cent lime.

Best way to end a meal – To end a meal in summer I’ll go with a Vouvray Moelleux from Domaine Huet; in winter I really like Cannibal Creek’s Vin de Liqueur. It’s a Gippsland winery’s take on a Pineau des Charentes and it really works.

Nightcap – Well, 1961 Armagnac is my top choice; otherwise, a Redbreast 21-year single-malt Irish whiskey.

Little Prince Wine is located on the ground floor of The Prince Hotel, 2 Acland Street, St Kilda. Open daily 8am-6pm, (03) 9536 1175,,

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