Fine wine merchant Phil Hude is big on education.

Phil Hude, Armadale cellars

Toni Paterson chats with Phil Hude and learns the secrets of one of Melbourne’s premier fine wine merchants.

Tell me about your store.
I took over the business 23 years ago. I probably spend too much time at my craft but the harder you work, the luckier you get. I like to think we are pretty ‘real’ about wine. We do an exhausting amount of customer events to make wine approachable. It’s all about quality, education and value.

How are your education classes going?
I am so passionate about it. Last year we conducted 236 events including ‘Introduction to Wine’ courses, ‘Palate Trainers’ and numerous ‘Varietal Challenges’.

What does your Grange Shiraz Challenge involve?
Guests look at a dozen wines blind across three brackets, one that includes the Grange. Pondalowie Special Release Shiraz and Wild Duck Creek Reserve have plenty of fans! Even those who’ve had Grange before find it hard to pick from the pack.

Talk us through some market trends.
Rosé is huge and the pinot wave has certainly washed over us. I saw the natural wine movement coming years ago after a trip to VinItaly. There’s renewed interest in shiraz cabernet blends. Riesling and cru Beaujolais are underrated. Cabernet is undersold, but we have a saying that ‘great cabernet is great’.

Do you taste all the wines that you list?
Yes. I’m always on the lookout for new styles. But we also have suppliers who we have worked with for 20+ years.

Special mentions?
Mornington has become incredible in the last 20 years; Eldridge, Main Ridge and Paradigm Hill are a great trio. For Champagne, try Jean Pernet and Barnaut, which we bring in. And I just love Giaconda.

No. 1 wine tip?
Preparation is key. Have a good stem, like Riedel. Give the wine aeration, serve at the right temperature. Wines need time to express themselves.