Christian Robertson

Sommelier’s Choice

Christian Robertson, Belle’s Hot Chicken
Beverage Director, Melbourne & Sydney

Fried chicken and natural wine. It’s definitely a thing, according to the Belle’s Hot Chicken (BHC) team. “It’s funny; most people react with hesitation,” says Christian Robertson, beverage director of the Nashville-inspired eateries. “It’s one of those things that you don’t understand until you’ve tried it,” he continues. “Bright, light and juicy wines with good acidity just work well with salty, spicy chicken. I think it’s also the contrast of having a simple, generous plate of food – something culturally and demographically common – with this deliciously interesting and sometimes challenging style of wine.”

Although his career started on the food side of hospitality, Robertson admits that wine was always the fun side. “When you’re young and work with a few great people, you absorb their interests,” he says. “I was lucky to start tasting and writing wine lists when I was about 21. I haven’t looked back.” Robertson’s interest in minimal-intervention wine was piqued by one surprising, “life-changing” bottle, but despite his and [BHC founder] Morgan McGlone’s affinity for such wines, Robertson finds that the characters behind the labels are an integral part of the experience. Partnerships have been formed with Rob Burley of Unkel Wines and Barnaby Flanders of Garagiste, among others. “These winemakers operate outside an often strict framework of production and create the wines they want to drink,” he explains. “It’s a culture of enjoyment, and [demonstrates] a certain rejection of the understanding that wine is to be made or enjoyed in a certain way.”

With six restaurants now under the BHC banner, diversity across the beverage offerings is a key focus, and no wine list is the same. However, the theme is consistent with whites often undergoing varying degrees of skin contact and reds ranging from juicy and refreshing to complex and thought-provoking (think local labels such as Patrick Sullivan, Shobbrook and Good Intentions Wine Co, as well as international bottles from cult producers such as Frank Cornelissen and Domaine de l’Anglore). Several locations means slight changes in demographics, which provides Robertson with the opportunity to be flexible in his listings. “I feel that having different wines in each store gives customers a more diverse look into what natural wines are and helps break down any preconceptions.” Ultimately, it’s about enjoying a great glass of wine with delicious food. “A great wine will always lift a basic dish,” he enthuses. “And while it won’t matter how great the food is – even from the best chef in the world – an average wine won’t make it better than it already is.”