From starting his career collecting empty glasses to today serving some of the most exceptional wines, hospitality runs in the blood of sommelier Jimmy Parham, venue manager of SkyCity's Sol Bar & Restaurant. As his career has developed, the jobs got tougher but the wines got better.
Three minutes with SkyCity sommelier Jimmy Parham
BEN What are your earliest memories of wine?
JIMMY My earliest experience of wine and alcohol was as a 10-year-old, making cocktails for my mum and her friends each Friday night. My dad travelled overseas a lot and one of my mum’s best friends had lost her husband to cancer, so a group of her friends would come to our house to support each other. Making drinks was my way of helping, and that sense of hospitality, of welcoming people into your home and making them feel cared for, has left an indelible imprint on me. What I did would be considered highly inappropriate now, but it was the ’80s so it was a different time.
BEN How did you come to pursue a career as a sommelier?
JIMMY I started my journey as a sommelier at Chianti on Hutt Street over a decade ago. I can thank Maria Favaro (Chianti) and Duncan Vent (sommelier) for nurturing the whole front-of-house team and allowing us to immerse ourselves in the glorious depths of fine Italian wine. Dinner service would finish and Duncan would open some amazing bottles of back vintage Barolos, Barbaresco, Super Tuscans, and the whole gamut of Italian white varietals. These were important formative years and taught me that wine is drinkable art that has a history, a regional context and an important role in elevating food and enhancing life.
BEN Sean’s Kitchen won an award for its wine list. What makes it special?
JIMMY The depth and breadth of the cellar at SkyCity is all about luxury and has been built up over a long period of time. It is a privilege to work with such a collection. The sheer volume of back vintage wines like the Henschke family’s Hill of Grace, Penfolds Bin 95 Grange, and First Growth Bordeaux is an incredible resource. The Sean’s Kitchen list is for seafood and red meat. I can indulge in Giaconda chardonnay paired with fresh lobster, and a dry-aged rib eye matched with a rare Rockford SVS Hoffman from the Barossa, a Hermitage from Jean-Louis Chave, or a Barolo from Domenico Clerico in Piedmont. It’s a great job and I’m lucky to have the support of an amazing team.
BEN If we invited you to a party, what wine would you bring?
JIMMY Champagne! Nothing celebrates good company like Champagne, and it works in any social gathering. A good Blanc de Blancs is a great opening salvo that works at the start of the meal. Otherwise, choose back vintage wines from my cellar to match what the host is preparing. I’ve been collecting A.P. Birks Wendouree wines for many years, and always love the opportunity to share these stunning bottles with friends and family.
BEN What is the oldest wine you’ve tasted?
JIMMY An 1865 Madeira — an extraordinarily rare and privileged experience. The bottle looked like something that had been dredged up from the depths of the ocean. The wine was everything! It still had fruit, acid, complexity and length; all the components were there. To think of everything that has happened in the world since that wine was bottled … what a humbling experience.
BEN What’s on your wine bucket list?
JIMMY I’m lucky enough that I’ve been able to try many wines from legendary vintages. A 1962 Penfolds Bin 60A, 1989 Petrus, and a 1985 Domaine de la Romanée Conti La Tâche, which was a spiritual experience. However, my bucket list wine is the La Romanée Conti Montrachet Grand Cru. It’s my unicorn. I’ve held it twice, and both times the bottles were flawed and couldn’t be drunk.
BEN Favourite SA restaurant and why?
JIMMY Leigh Street Wine Room – Sali and Nathan Sasi are doing everything right! The food is consistently fantastic, the wine list is full of natural wonders and the staff are brilliant, without a hint of arrogance. We should all be happy that such a gem exists in Adelaide.
BEN What’s new at Sol Restaurant?
JIMMY Executive chef Kane Pollard’s new spring menu is incredible. He has foraged a cornucopia of new ingredients from the season’s new growth. He’s an artistic and culinary powerhouse who inspires me and the Sol team on a daily basis. It’s so rare to find a chef who has such a clear philosophy and passion for sustainability. As well as the food, the Sol Restaurant wine list has been completely revamped with a beautifully curated selection of wines. One of the most exciting elements for the team is our deluxe wine parings – a South Australian wine next to its old-world counterpart. It gives guests a unique experience and a deeper understanding and appreciation for local wines.
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