The world according to James Alcock

Lucy Britner

Lucy Britner

20 November 2020

James Alcock, from Brisbane’s The Local Larder & Wine Bar, talks to Lucy Britner about being a teetotal somm, playing the blues and working with his wife

At 16, after working for my father as a builder’s apprentice by day, I would run drinks at a friend’s parents’ restaurant at night. I much preferred working with happy people, food and wine than with angry blokes, jack hammers and concrete.

I stopped drinking alcohol in late February 2019, which is unusual for a sommelier and wine bar owner. But I taste wine every day and keep my palate sharp. I will resume drinking wines when I retire.

My wife Stephanie and I are currently building a super-cellar for retirement. We will collect for the next 20 years and then drink two to three bottles between us − of absolutely epic aged wine − every week until we’re dead.

The world according to James Alcock

2005 GM at Noosa Waterfront restaurant in Noosa, just north of Brisbane on the Sunshine Coast
2010
Venues manager at Brisbane’s Caxton St Catering
2013
Sommelier at qualia – a 6* Relais & Chateau
property in the Whitsundays
2015
Director at Vinum Wine Distributors in Queensland
2018
Opens The Local Larder & Wine Bar in Brisbane with his wife Stephanie

There is still too much ego in the wine industry. From somms to winemakers, there is always some drongo that loves themselves too much and is almost always negatively critical of other peers.

I met my wife on Hamilton Island in Queensland eight years ago. She was an F&B manager and I was a sommelier. We founded our relationship on wine.

The best thing about working with my wife is that she gets what I do and I get what she does. When we get home we can share in the joy and the pain of running our own business, which means we have each other’s back all the time − and that’s a nice place to be.

I surf on the Gold and Sunshine Coasts when the waves are perfect.

In my spare time I play the blues guitar on my Fender Stratocaster − I’ve been playing since I was 10.

My top food and wine experience was in 2016 at Beronia Winery in Rioja, Spain. I was treated to a bottle of 1973 Gran Reserva matched with lamb chops grilled over vine shoots (that are pruned in winter).

Getting drunk is no longer acceptable. I started to see intoxication as a negative for myself, staff and customers alike. We really don’t like seeing guests getting drunk and it’s not in our business model to have intoxicated clientele.

I lived and worked in Spain for several years in my early 20s. I fell in love with the country and I still associate with the Spanish wine industry as much as I can, helping choose wines for an importer and distributor in Australia.

The Ahr wine region near Bonn, Germany, is highly underrated. I’ve tasted some of the most compelling Pinot Noirs of my life from here, yet it’s hardly talked about compared to other Pinot Noir regions. Producers such as Meyer-Näkel and Jean Stodden are the stars.

The Larder recently embarked on a ‘low-to-no’ alcohol offering. We pour sparkling, white and red non-alc wines by the glass, have a few non-alc beer options and lots of ‘no-to-low’ cocktails. This has been a huge hit.

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