When superstar chef Neil Perry and renowned Riesling maker Jeffrey Grosset meet to eat and drink at Perry's Rose Bay apartment, the two men pay no mind to the stunning views of Sydney's iconic Harbour Bridge and Opera House as they bustle around the kitchen. Perry is pounding chiles, garlic and lemongrass in a well-worn stone mortar for his spicy, creamy chicken curry—"the kind of thing you find bubbling in a blackened pot on fishing boats throughout Asia," he says. "This one's a cross between an Indian and Malaysian Nyonya–style curry, and very easy to cook." Grosset is setting out half a dozen wines, including a 2005 Grosset Piccadilly Chardonnay to accompany the chicken. "The 2005 vintage was a rather bold one, and the wine can almost be too dominant with food," he says, "but as you get into the elusive flavors of this curry, the Chardonnay keeps working with them."
The two men are well matched. Both Perry and Grosset are among a handful of Australians to gain recognition in the international gastronomic arena. Since 1989, when he opened Rockpool restaurant in the Rocks district of Sydney, Perry has gone on to appear in his own cult TV cooking shows and write best-selling cookbooks; he's currently working on his fifth book, Balance and Harmony, about his love affair with Asian cuisine, while working out the kinks at his new Rockpool Bar & Grill, an eminently fashionable steak house, in Melbourne. Grosset is widely acknowledged as one of the world's greatest white-wine makers, famous also for using screw-cap closures on his bottlings. As one of the more thoughtful winemakers of his generation, he is currently obsessed with the effects of climate change and biodynamics on wine.
The pair met in 1988 at Claude's (a landmark Sydney restaurant that has always attracted top chefs and winemakers, drawn by its intimate atmosphere), at a lunch that kept going late into the night. Perry was very close to opening Rockpool, offering a uniquely Australian blend of Asian and Mediterranean cooking, and the two men toyed with the idea of pouring a really spectacular house wine at the launch. "We both wanted to turn the concept of house wine as being of poor quality on its head," Perry explains. "I wanted top winemakers to make me my own special wines that not only represented great Australian wine styles but also perfectly matched my food. Most were actually more expensive than many other bottles on our wine list." But it wasn't until six months after Rockpool's opening that Grosset delivered his first batch of Rockpool Riesling; he still makes about 60 cases a year each of Riesling and Chardonnay for the restaurant.