Nearly 18 years young, CRU Bar + Cellar holds a special place in the heart’s of many wine lovers. There are not many locales where diners can visit the neighbouring cellar, select a bottle of their finest and enjoy it served chilled with natural oysters at your table moments later – CRU are leaders at it.
This sentiment is backed by connoisseurs, who regularly award CRU for its incomparable wine selection. In celebration of their Gourmet Traveller ‘Best List of Wines by the Glass’ and ‘Best Listing of QLD Wine’ awards late 2020, we delved into the cellar, its legacy and collection with crew member Ben Boscoe.
What is your title at CRU Bar + Cellar?
We don’t really do titles at CRU. I’m part of the Cellar Team, responsible for building a diverse and interesting range of drinks for both the retail and bar side of the venue. We also take care of the back-of-house administration, allowing our wonderful Bar team to focus on providing the best experience for guests.
How long have you been a part of the crew?
A little over two years now.
Tell us what your day-to-day role entails?
On any given day I could be tasting wines with distributors and winemakers, chatting with a customer about a new and interesting wine or beer, organising deliveries to web-store customers all over the country or presenting a wine to a guest in the bar.
How many different wine varietals are there at CRU Cellar?
That’s hard to answer because my first instinct is to go on a rant about the difference between Varietals and Varieties, and secondly it becomes hard to keep track of! Our wine list currently breaks down into 60 different varieties or styles, but we are constantly exploring new and interesting wines that often don’t make it on to the list. Albillo from the Sierra de Gredos in Spain, Valdiguié from Northern California and Bosco from the Cinque Terra are some recent examples.
Since opening, how many awards has CRU Bar + Cellar won?
We’ve lost track! We enter the Gourmet Traveller Wine List of the Year Awards every year, as a way of keeping our professional edge and to ensure we’re being the best we can be. After nearly 18 years of that, there are quite a few awards that CRU is ineligible for because we’ve won them too many times already.
What award is the CRU Bar + Cellar crew most proud of and why?
Our latest award from GT Wine for “Best List of Wines by the Glass” and also the award for “Best Listing of QLD Wines” was a great reward for a really tough year. Not to mention, we spent way more time on that list than any list before – it was a real team effort. Sophie Otton sums it up better than me;
“Although the number of wines by the glass has dropped marginally, CRU’s listing represents a significant upgrade from 2019. Presentation has dramatically improved, with colour photos on each page and a substantial amount of information provided.
There’s a more conventionally presented smaller list by the glass, with equal respect given to sparkling, fortified and sweet. This is a tour de force that spells attention to detail and commitment.”
With a growing number of accolades to its belt, the CRU wine list was recently described by Gourmet Traveller critics as “very complete ’ and mentioned that diners are ‘spoilt for choice here’. Behind every wine selection in the cellar and bar, we trust there is a careful curation process. Can you tell us more about the selection process? Is there a brain’s trust behind what is available? If so, is it a mix of staff members / sommeliers or can connoisseurs from the public have a say too?
The wine selection is curated by our cellar team. The first objective is ensuring that we cover all the bases of a good wine list – we have to balance the commercial realities of operating a profitable business with our desires to just buy what we like to drink!
We work hard to understand what our customers want and ultimately, we build our list around the customer. As wine nerds, we’re very fortunate at CRU that many of our guests are keen to try new things just as much as drinking old favourites. That allows us to go down interesting wine rabbit holes at times, like seeking out and trying all of the top producers of Valtellina in Northern Italy. Or even getting extra nerdy and exploring the clonal differences between Aligoté Dorée and Aligoté Vert in Burgundy’s Côte-d’Or.
A feat beyond the awards, CRU Bar + Cellar can be accredited to helping change the way Brisbane thinks about and enjoys food and wine through its education of new and exciting varietals, stockist of one-of-a-kind wine and weekly tastings. What does CRU hope for their long-term legacy?
This year, CRU turns 18 on Tuesday 23 March and will be finally old enough to drink! That said, as a venue it holds a special place in the hearts of many wine lovers and professionals all over the country. I’ve lost count of the number of people both within the industry and out, who are regularly inspired to go on journeys of exploration in wine because of experiences they’ve had at CRU.
What can we expect next at CRU Bar + Cellar?
More of the same! A constantly evolving menu with new and exciting food and wine.
With a career savouring the finest wine, you must be a trusted culinary confidant at a dinner party – what is your philosophy or go to tip on food and wine pairings at home?
I generally try to avoid snobchat at home, it’s almost always more about the company you’re with than the specifics of the food and wine! When it comes down to it though, there’s nothing more exciting than trying something new.
Available at the cellar, what is a bottle we can pick up to say, “I love you”, “Thank you” and “Happy Birthday” when gifting?
It depends who you’re buying for and we always do our best to cater to our individual customer’s needs! If I was buying for a certain someone, I’d buy a 2009 Arpepe ‘Sesto Canto’ Inferno Valtellina Superiore and a big slab of beef to say I love you. A 2018 Heymann-Löwenstein Röttgen Riesling would be a pretty fantastic thank you gift. Finally, I always find that Chablis is the best birthday wine, so probably a 2019 Jean-Paul & Benoit Droin Montée de Tonnerre Chablis Premier Cru.
At the end of the day, what’s your go-to drink and how do you like it served?
An ice cold Negroni is the perfect last drink (or first drink) of the day, nothing can change my mind.
February 19, 2021