Q&A with Halliday

Fast Five: Viceroy Bali's Jean-Benoît Issele

By Nola James

14 Apr, 2024

In this series, we ask industry members to share the five drinks that shaped their lives.

Maître d' and chef sommelier Jean-Benoît Issele has worked at the Mandarin Oriental in Paris, Palazzo Versace in Dubai, and Frantzen’s Kitchen in Hong Kong. He moved to picturesque Ubud to oversee the drinks program at Viceroy Bali – one of the world’s top boutique resorts – in 2023. Viceroy’s elegant degustation restaurant Apéritif is one of the island’s best fine dining experiences.

Jean-Benoît IsseleViceroy Bali's Jean-Benoît Issele.

1990 Krug Clos du Mesnil Blanc de Blancs Brut
Champagne, France
The 1990 Krug Clos du Mesnil Blanc de Blancs Brut holds a special place in my heart – not only because it shares my birth year, but because it was my first understanding that Champagne is a type of wine. There is an assumption that Champagne is only for special occasions, but this wine taught me there is a surreal dimension and complexity to champagne that is often overlooked. I blind-tasted this wine during my first internship at Pauillac, a two-star restaurant. When shown the bottle afterwards, I was in shock knowing its hefty cost and exquisite rarity. My mentor explained the bottle accidentally broke during inventory, allowing the whole sommelier team to taste it. It was an unforgettable experience.

2011 Domaine de l'Amandyère l’Anoblie 
Languedoc-Roussillon, France
The 2011 Domaine de l'Amandyère l’Anoblie is a wine significant to my career. I recommend visiting the Corbières region in my native Languedoc to discover this gemstone. The vineyard sprawls over 1.42ha and comprises 50/50 per cent carignan and syrah grapes. Carefully sorted over eight successive rounds, 188,723 grape berries are turned into 3000 bottles of wine after 1000 hours. Its winemaker Stéphane Serre's speaks in litres and grapes, rather than hectolitres and bunches. With exceptional detail, each cuveé is crafted into a jewel to drink. During a dinner I hosted in Hong Kong, I had the pleasure of meeting Stéphane and we served this cuvée among big names like Domaine Jamet, Château Rayas and Jean-Louis Chaves. It came out on top.

2020 Mayer Dr Mayer Pinot Noir 
Yarra Valley, Victoria
Timo Mayer’s 2020 Dr Mayer Pinot Noir is a gem. I was introduced to this wine by my friend Manu at Oz Terroirs, a boutique wine shop in Hong Kong that specialises in rare, high-quality Australian wines. This is made from hand picked whole bunches that undergo natural fermentation in open vats with minimal intervention. It is then aged for 11 months in French hogsheads on lees before being handled only once, the week before bottling, where it is placed in a blending tank and lightly sulphur adjusted. Finally, without fining or filtration, the wine is bottled. When tasted blind, this delightful wine can be mistaken for the best Burgundy wines.

2020 Chateau d'Astros Minuit Rosé 
Côtes de Provence, France
Chateau d'Astros, which produces the Minuit Rosé, is owned by the Maurel family. The Maurels are experts in the craft, having produced rosés for nine generations in the heart of Provence. Their absolutely beautiful estate has 600ha of preserved nature, 80ha of vines and 10ha of apple trees. The 2020 Minuit Rosé is a perfect blend of grenache, syrah, and mourvèdre (GSM). The best plots are selectively harvested at night to limit oxidation and preserve the freshness of the fruits. I like to call Minuit a gastronomic friendly rosé that pairs well with southern French cuisine. Essentially, it’s a lifestyle wine fit for enjoying quality time with friends.

Eric Bordelet Poire Granit 
Normandy, France 
Last but not least, Poiré Granit by Eric Bordelet, which is great from any vintage, preferably by the magnum. I discovered this pear cider while facing the challenge of pairing a wine with a very particular sweet dessert during my time working for Swedish chefs Bjorn Frantzen and Jim Lofdhal in Hong Kong. One evening after service, we went to a wine bar seeking a refreshing drink and ended up being served Poiré. It was very subtle, crunchy, and had true elegant bubbles. Excited about this discovery, I brought a bottle to work the next day to pair it with my dessert and magic happened. It became so popular I had to reorder by the magnum to keep up with the demand. 

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