There aren’t many 24-year-old sommeliers, but the worldly Luke Sullivan, head sommelier for Gran Tivoli and Peppi’s Cellar in New York City, is a rare case.
Born in Sydney into a family of restaurateurs, Sullivan was exposed to the hospitality industry at an early age. His appreciation for wine drove his completion of both the introductory and certified exams through the Court of Master Sommeliers, as well as the WSET Level Two and Three Awards in Wine & Spirits. These qualifications helped him gain recognition as a rising star in the global wine scene.
While in Australia, Sullivan worked in some of the country’s most exciting restaurants, including Sydney’s Chiswick Restaurant, where he served as a bartender. He then decided to study wine and accepted a role at the iconic fine dining establishment, Aria Restaurant. He later worked as assistant to sommeliers at such celebrated Australian establishments as Felix Bar & Bistro, Est. Restaurant, and Fred’s Paddington. As senior management sommelier at The Bentley Group’s Monopole, Sullivan helped earn two “hats” from the Good Food Guide.
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VinePair caught up with Sullivan about his impressive CV, the bottle of Riesling that intensified his love for wine, and the Champagne cuvée he’ll never tire of.
1. What’s the bottle that made you fall in love with wine?
It can’t be narrowed down to one bottle, but the one that intensified my love for wine was 1995 Nikolaihof Riesling Vinothek. It’s one of the most unique wines in the world that spends almost two decades in barrel, deep down in a 700-year-old cellar in one of the most beautiful wine regions in the world, Wachau in Austria.
2. FMK three varieties: Cabernet, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay?
F*ck: Chardonnay. It can make for some of the sexiest wines in the world, from premier cru Chablis to old white Burgundy to vintage blanc de blancs Champagnes.
Marry: Pinot Noir. At its finest, it can’t be matched by any other grape, period.
Kill: Cabernet. Without question. In the words of Angelo Gaia: “Cabernet has a strong personality, open, easily understood and dominating. If Cabernet were a man, he would do his duty every night in the bedroom, but always in the boring same way.”
3. You’re on death row. What’s your last-supper wine?
Jean-Yves Bizot, Vosne-Romanée. Because even if I could afford it (which I definitely cannot), it’s a wine that is of remarkable rarity.
4. You can only drink one wine for the rest of your life. What is it?
MV Krug Grande Cuvée. I don’t think I could ever get sick of that wine.
5. You can only drink at one bar for the rest of your life. What is it?
La Pioche in Tokyo. It’s a little wine bar owned and run by Shinya Hayashi and is kind of mecca for anyone who is a fan of natural wine. There’s literally no wine list — just the names of producers. But you’re guaranteed to drink something delicious if you forfeit control and just do what you’re told.
6. What’s the best and worst wine on your rack (or in your fridge) right now?
I don’t think any of them are the worst, but there is one that could be considered “bad.” It’s a wine made from Chardonnay by Las Vino in Margaret River, Western Australia. The label is the outline of Donald Trump’s face and the name of the cuvée is “F*ck Him.” Kind of controversial and political but also delicious.
The best would probably be an old bottle of 2003 Cedric Bouchard Blanc de Noir from the tiny lieu-dit of “Côte de Bechelin.” I am super excited and curious to taste it.
7. If you could no longer drink wine, what would be your beverage of choice?
Probably gin Gimlets, or cider from Normandy.