WWC23 – Benjamin Perus, by Sami-Jo Adelman

Benjamin Perus reluctantly agreeing to have his photo taken during our coffee catch up at Nike EHQ in Hilversum

In this entry to our 2023 wine writing competition, wine enthusiast Sami-Jo Adelman writes about her friend and fellow wine lover Benjamin Perus. See our WWC23 guide for more.

Sami-Jo Adelman writes My name is Sami-Jo Adelman and I’m originally from Sydney, Australia but have been residing in the Netherlands for the past six years. I’ve completed my WSET Level 2 and 3 Awards in Wine and in the summer of 2020, I contemplated the idea of becoming a winemaker by spending time in the Jura with Ludwig Bindernagel of Lulu Vigneron and in the Loire Valley with Vincent Barbier of Les Trois Toits. Ultimately, I realised my passion for wine is drinking it and not making it. When I’m not swilling vino and making wine friends at tasting events, you’ll find me working at Nike’s European Headquarters as a digital marketeer, sipping coffee at Five Ways in Amsterdam Oost, dancing Lindy Hop, or travelling somewhere unexpected. 

It’s the middle of July but the weather is grim. A typical Amsterdam drizzle descends as I head out to my first Natural Born Sippers event with a few girlfriends at Rebel Wines, which Carl, the shop owner, hosts every Thursday evening. An excuse not just to taste wine but to pick up new friends. 

Inside is surprisingly warm and cosy as a sizable crowd disperses across the shop floor. There are five wines to taste from the Loire Valley, and I’m eager to get started. As soon as I sample the first drop, I cringe. I know what I’m in for. Too zippy and lean. Definitely not my preferred style. The rest of the wines follow suit. 

In between tastings I snake my way through the crowd towards the bathroom and pass a bloke sitting at the bar drinking solo. He is chatting enthusiastically to Carl, and I immediately detect an Australian accent. A fellow Aussie in the Dam. I stop to introduce myself. 

“I couldn’t help noticing that Australian accent,” I say. “Where are you from?” 

“Melbourne,” he replies. 

“Nice, I’m from Sydney. Do you come to these tastings often?”

“Almost every week,” he says with a broad grin.

“It’s my first time,” I smile back. 

We exchange pleasantries and digits over wine number five.

We finish the last drop, and my friends and I move onto our next destination. But I make a rookie error. My raincoat, an Amsterdam essential, is still at Rebel Wines. 

I text my new mate.

 “Ciao! Sami here. I left my raincoat on the back of the door at Rebel. Can you please tell Carl to hang onto it for me and I’ll collect it from him tomorrow. It’s khaki coloured.” 

“Hey Sami, I'll head back to Rebel shortly to let Carl know re your jacket. Just finishing up a wine @Bar Parry atm. Cheers, Ben.”

WhatsApp contact had officially been established. 

Ben and I tried to connect over the coming months for wine-related activities, yet somehow life got in the way. It wasn’t until November that I heard from him again. I received a message informing me that he had an interview for the company I worked at and needed some advice. I was in Manchester for a training event at the time but was more than happy to help a fellow Aussie and wine enthusiast. 

Fast forward a couple of months; Ben landed the role, and we now work at the same enterprise. 

To celebrate we went out to BAMBINO for a late lunch. After months of exchanging messages and no real drinking action, we were finally getting together for a proper tipple. I was so excited to discuss wine. Would we share affections for the same drinking dens, producers, and grape varieties? Had we travelled to the same wine regions? Did he prefer wine from Bordeaux’s Left Bank or Right Bank? How highly did he regard Barossa Shiraz? I braced myself excitedly for scholarly wine conversation.

As we settled into our meal and the first glass it became quickly evident that Ben and I were on opposite sides of the wine-drinking fence. 

Polar opposite sides. Shit. 

Ben loved natural wine. The funkier the better. I’m more conventional. Give me a Pouilly-Fuissé over a Pét-Nat any day. Ben likes wines that are racy, crisp, and smell like barnyard. I like wines that are bold, round, and smell like butter. Ben talks about wines having a nice kick. I talk about wines with structure and a long finish. Ben likes petillance. I don’t. Ben reads Pipette. I read Noble Rot. Ben found my drinking preferences overly sophisticated. I found his underwhelming. 

How was this ever going to work? 

To my surprise, despite these immense challenges, we continued to hang out, drink wine, and exchange banter. 
“Ben, did Goop tell you that natural wine would clean your chakras?”
“M’lady, is the growth of this claret up to your lofty standards?”
“Oh, this one’s a label-drinker, the more colourful the better. Is this one bright enough for you dear?”

… and so on and so forth. 

Then something unexpected happened. Ben gifted me a bottle of 2018 Fontanasanta Manzoni Bianco from Foradori as a thank-you present for the job intel. He said it was one of his favourite producers. Unbeknown to him, it was mine as well. 

After having lived in Italy for a couple of years prior to the Netherlands, Trentino-Alto Adige is one of my beloved wine regions. I first encountered Azienda Agricola Foradori whilst traversing the Strada del Vino from Bolzano to Trento and fell head over heels for Teroldego. I was lucky enough to meet two of the Foradori children, Emilio and Theo, and learned how they cultivate Teroldego and Pinot Grigio on alluvial soils of the Campo Rotaliano, and Nosiola and Manzoni Bianco on the calcareous-clayey hills of Cognola. The Foradori philosophy, inked by their mother Elisabetta, is to produce grapes and wine that express the true essence of the land so that all their wine “keeps an expressive spontaneity and bears the personality of its raw material.” Now this was a philosophy I could get behind. 

+1 Ben. 

Ok, maybe I had judged my companion a little too harshly. This naturalista had potential. 

We continued to go out drinking together, and slowly but surely became more accommodating of each other's preferences. The occasions started to pile up.

First, it was Leroy’s South African wine-tasting party, then the grand opening of Benelux Wine operated by dear friends Malory and AJ, after we had the Radici al Sud festival at Terre Lente and VI.NO.SO. wine fair at Hotel Goudfazant. Friday night aperitivo at Bar Parry was commonplace as well as Friday night final rounds at Twee Prinsen. We even helped my friend Mike select the wine menu for his Mexican restaurant Mas Mais. 

Yes, Ben and I were wine consultants…together. And came to an agreement on the final selection, and no one was injured in the process. It was truly the zenith of our wine mateship. 

Ben earned his title as my number one drinking pal. Now we mingle with the same crowd, and unsurprisingly they all love wine. As more individuals join the clan, I often get asked, “Oh, and how did you two become such fast friends?”

“A lost raincoat, a shared love for wine, and a mutual decision to agree to disagree, until we finally can agree.” 

The photograph is the author's own.