February 1, 2022
Wine & Dine

Three minutes with sommelier Liinaa Berry

Hailing from Mauritius, expert sommelier Liinaa Berry moved to Adelaide in 2015 and has most recently found her home as Wine Director at Mount Lofty Estate.

Mount Lofty Estate Wine Director Liinaa Berry. Photo: Josh Geelen.

BEN What kick-started your passion for wine?

LIINAA The gustatory complexities, the aromas, the intriguing nature of smell and memory and its connection to emotions. It is time captured in a bottle; a story of human and nature at one point in time. My passion comes from demystifying these elements and inviting people to develop an appreciation, and inspire in them genuine curiosity and excitement when drinking (responsibly).

BEN Tell me about your childhood in Mauritius and later working at resorts there?

LIINAA I didn’t grow up with wine. In my childhood, I remember people around me drinking beer, whiskey and rum. Wine seemed like a luxury reserved for the highly educated and fine people. If it wasn’t for the 5-star resorts back in Mauritius and the Seychelles, it would have been really difficult to enter the world of wine in Australia. For two years, I worked six days a week with double shifts; working in the corporate world taught me a lot.

BEN What has kept you in Adelaide?

LIINAA I enjoy the small-scale nature of the city and the diversity of the state in terms of its wine regions and topography. I’m 35 years old and not looking for the same things I used to when I was in my 20s in Melbourne. I’m happy with a calmer life. I still go see plays and enjoy concerts and Adelaide’s world-class festivals, but what makes me the happiest is to be able to drive less than an hour and find myself in dramatic landscapes with my dog, my partner and a book. I’ve been in Australia for 13 years and it’s about the people who you meet and decide to keep in your life.

BEN What is the wine cellar like at Hardy’s Verandah?

LIINAA We have a natural sandstone cellar underneath the restaurant where we house our 1000 different labels. I see it as a beautiful place that opens your imagination to all the different tastes of this planet. I can stay there for ages; it’s cathartic.

BEN How good is your ability to blind-taste wines?

LIINAA I would say fairly good but it depends on the day. I’m very good at picking wines when they reflect the typicity of the grape or the region. I love the wines of the Rhone Valley. Loire and Beaujolais are great to blind taste when it comes to chenin blanc, cabernet franc, pinot noir and gamay. Jura is always exciting. I play blinds with my sommelier team and my partner. He was a sommelier back when he was working in Munich, so we play blinds with each other all the time.

BEN What is your favourite listening material?

LIINAA I listen to a wide range of music. When I cook, I like Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Serge Gainsbourg – going back in time a little. When I get ready to go out, I will put Beyonce or James Brown. Writing or having a salt bath, I would pick piano music such as Chopin. The Beatles always make me feel good. I like bands such as Moriarty. And ’90s hip hop is great when I need the motivation to kick ass on a project.

BEN If you had a superpower, what would it be?

LIINAA Teleportation would have to be the one. I could always teleport to Mauritius, sail and drink pinot with mum, or go to any cool events anywhere in the world.

BEN Best piece of advice from a mentor?

LIINAA Be humble no matter what. You are a human, vulnerable as any other mere living thing. Who told me that? Sommelier, writer and winemaker Raj Paar in Vienna in 2018.

BEN We’re coming for dinner – what wine do you have ready and what should we bring?

LIINAA I would have Champagne from a small artisan producer; I always like to surprise my guests with wines they have never seen before. Depending on what I am cooking, you can bring a salty white from the Jura or go completely different, a textural white from Italy such as a rich trebbiano from Abruzzo, or a white from the Rhone, a marsanne roussanne, an aromatic white from the Languedoc, or a German riesling. I will also always have a red, a northern Rhone and a Chateauneuf-du-Pape or a nebbiolo from Valtellina – why not?!

This article first appeared in the September 2021 issue of SALIFE Magazine.

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