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Numbers game: Cork & Cleaver sommelier Jim Boutsis says the restaurant currently has around 200 dozen cases in stock supporting the 350 wines rotated through its wine list.

THIS is the first of an occasional series looking at high-profile restaurants and how, and why, they choose the labels which go on their wine lists. This month Andrew Mole caught up with the man behind the Cork & Cleaver’s cellar.

Jim Boutsis likes to sample at least 1000 different wines a year.

Boil it down and that’s about three wines a day, every day, of said year (give or take a public holiday or two).

All on top of his work as sommelier and maître d’ at Cork & Cleaver – Adelaide’s signature steak house.

Tucked away in the city’s swanky eastern suburbs C&C currently has around 200 dozen cases in stock supporting the 350 wines rotated through its wine list.

A list Boutsis admits is dominated by classic South Australian reds “because that’s what our customers want”.

But he is also the first to admit tastes, his included, are constantly evolving.

For example, a decade ago C&C might have had one fish and one chicken item on the menu – which is presented to each diner on a meat cleaver.

Today it has expanded that to both vegetarian and, shock, horror, even vegan.

“Because that is also what some of our customers want,” Boutsis adds.

“We recently hosted a vegan wedding here,” he says.

“And only two or three years ago we would never had had a Moscato on the wine list and now I have five.”

Stratos Pouras, C&C founder and owner, would have to be one of Adelaide’s most enduring restaurateurs – and more enduring than his wine list, which undergoes constant change.

With his Glenunga restaurant he found the perfect formula of red meat, red meat and red wine.

In its 34 years he might have occasionally tweaked the menu but the format, the décor and even some of the staff is pretty much the way they were when it first opened its doors 36 years ago.

Pouras and Boutsis first met up at Swains in 1977. Pouras left in 1978 to found C&C with Boutsis following him in 1984.

Wine, as Boutsis says, “is the essence of life as far as I am concerned”.

“I did not really grow up with it, and when I moved into restaurants the food side never did much for me,” he says.

“But the wine. It became an obsession and I became an avid collector, developing my own palate and learning from everyone I could.”

That included rubbing shoulders with the Schuberts, Crosers and Knappsteins amongst others and all the while adding to his own collection as well as the restaurant’s.

Like all sommeliers Boutsis says the market sets the primary list but his great delight is unearthing something new and then switching on patrons to something slightly different.

“I am so passionate about the boutiques. I am not all that interested in the Big Four, although we obviously have to have a few Penfolds and the like on the list.

“When I joined Stratos the wine selection was pretty small, too small, and I started with 50 wines and have built that into today’s 350,” he says.

“I am proud to say about 95 per cent of that is South Australian wine, with a few Italians and just one French, a Beaujolais.

Full story in July’s Grapegrower & Winemaker.

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