Five Minutes With… Melanie Brown

The director and founder of The New Zealand Cellar and The Australian Cellar on her love of chardonnay, beef tartare and Anthony Bourdain

Food and Drink 29 Jan 2019

Mel Brown, founder of The New Zealand Cellar and The Australian Cellar
The Australian Cellar launched in summer 2018

Who is your role model?

I have loads of role models: people and producers who have influenced me. One of them is a winery – Villa Maria in New Zealand, which is family-run and award-winning producers with incredible core values and who exude role-model qualities for me.

On a more personal level, my mum and dad are my greatest role models and have taught me lots of amazing things. My mum is a dude and has instilled values and straight thinking in me, she keeps me level headed. My dad is a rock, who led me to understand the wine industry and to explore my more hedonistic side.

What food can you not live without?

Steak tartare – it’s my favourite, I love the umami, salty, beefy goodness; it’s exceptional. With it, if I was drinking white, I would choose a Neudorf Moutere chardonnay and if red, a Burn Cottage pinot noir from Central Otago.

What wine can you not live without?

It would have to be the Neudorf Moutere chardonnay. I love chardonnay and this producer really understands it. This wine is elegant, understated and excellent, it’s expressive and complex, with concentrated flavours of tropical fruit and oak. It’s wonderful and really sexy.

What item, apart from your passport, can you not travel without?

My wine knife – I take it wherever I go.

Why did you follow The New Zealand Cellar with The Australian Cellar?

I’m really into new world energy and spirit and what is particularly exciting is the new wave of Australian wine coming to the UK. It was a natural progression from New Zealand wine for me to start The Australian Cellar. I think people in the UK tend to think of Australian wine as being basic, cheap supermarket wine that’s very strong, but there are lots of great producers and new varietals that we’re bringing to the UK.

What is your favourite London restaurant?

Naughty Piglets in Brixton is amazing, I am particularly obsessed with an incredible crab dish the restaurant serves that comes with peanuts, peanut sauce and pickled cabbage – it is complex, light, aromatic and delicious. The wine list is natural wine focused – one of the owners is formerly of [London wine bar] Terroirs – and is very good.

Apart from wine what is your biggest passion?

Food! I just love eating and drinking. If I’m not eating, I’m drinking and if I’m not drinking, I’m eating.

If you could choose anyone from today or history, who would be your ideal dinner guest?

Anthony Bourdain. I never met him but he’s such a total legend. I loved his attitude and the way he talked. He’s actually a bit of a role model for me and I love his first book about being a chef, Kitchen Confidential. He had an amazing palate, he knew who he was and he gave other people confidence to be who they are too.

Melanie Brown is one of the UK’s leading experts on New Zealand and Australian wine and established the award-winning wine bar and merchants The New Zealand Cellar in 2014, followed by The Australian Cellar in summer 2018; thenewzealandcellar.co.uk, theaustraliancellar.co.uk