The winners and judges

Australia’s wine list of the year Awards shaped up to be a reflection of a year of change in the hospitality industry and its wine offerings. Not only were the best of the best in the industry filing through the doors of a new venue for this year’s awards night – the Electrolux showroom in Sydney – but there was also a new format for the event with a whole host of wines on taste and a range of masterclasses to attend.

The winning wine lists had also undergone massive change. The judges for the awards noticed an evolution in the lists. “Sommeliers are more confident than ever before about going out on a limb,” said judge and Gourmet Traveller WINE contributor Jeni Port. “This year I saw more wines from Israel, Lebanon, Macedonia, Greece, Uruguay and Georgia than previously.”

Fellow judge and contributor Toni Paterson MW agreed. “Wine-by-the-glass lists have improved with a wide range of varietals available,” she explained. “Coravin is also being used widely in the top restaurants.”

MC Peter Marchant.

At the end of a very special five-hour tasting session, MC, Brisbane wine man, Peter Marchant took to the stage to welcome the room to the 2018 Wine List of the Year Awards, and introduce the awards’ founder, Rob Hirst. Hirst thanked the awards partners, Gourmet Traveller WINE and the Drinks Association, along with Vintec and Transtherm for hosting the event, and of course, long-standing chair of judges Peter Forrestal.

Healesville Hotel’s Michael Kennedy

Marchant acknowledged all the three-glass rated venues by state, as well as announcing the addition of Jonah’s, Healesville Hotel and Love Tilly Devine to the Hall of Fame. This year’s Hall of Fame: Individual Award was then presented to David Lawler for his outstanding contribution to the industry.

Dear Sainte Éloise’s Matt Swieboda and Jasmine Natterer.

The time had come for the first of the category award winners to be revealed. The highly anticipated Tony Hitchin Award for Best New List was first up, being awarded to Dear Sainte Éloise, Matt Swieboda’s new venture with Jasmine Natterer and Nate Hatwell.

For the second year in a row, Harvest Newrybar was the winner of the Best Small Wine List (50 wines), accepted by outgoing sommelier Russ Berry. Another second-year-in-a-row winner, Chiswick Woollahra took out the Best Small Wine List (100 wines).

Jeni Port accepting Brae’s award on behalf of Simon Freeman.

Wine properly paired with food is an ever-important exercise when dining out, or in, a fact that is highlighted in every issue of this publication by Peter Bourne. The winner of the Best Food & Wine Matching Award, Brae, should be especially proud.

Banjo Harris Plane and Yuki Hirose.

Of particular interest was the Best Non-Alcoholic Drinks List Award, as the tired, old mocktail has undergone a much-needed renaissance at venues like that of the winner, Attica.

The GT WINE Readers’ Choice Award was taken out by the winner of last year’s Best Beer List, Charred Kitchen & Bar, in Orange, a new favourite in a region famous for its cool-climate wines.

The creation of a new award this year got the room fired up as the majority of guests at the event had voted for it. The inaugural Vintec Sommeliers’ Choice award went to Nick Hildebrandt, chosen by his peers for his tireless efforts at Bentley Restaurant + Bar in Sydney.

Judy Sarris, Mark Baulderstone, Ian Trinkle of Aria Brisbane, Laura Field, Rob Hirst and Ashley Pini.

Then came the exciting part of the night when the Best Country Restaurant List and Best City Restaurant List were revealed, which are indicators of the major award winner. Finally, Marchant announced Aria Brisbane had won Australia’s Wine List of the Year for 2018, meaning sommelier Ian Trinkle received the Judy Hirst Award for the Sommelier Responsible for the Best List, presented by Judy Hirst’s granddaughter, Laura Field. As the ceremony wrapped up, the afterparty began.  

Discover all the finalists

Stillwater’s James Welsh with Delamere Vineyards’ Fran Austin.

On Pour

Bass Phillip  
Curly Flat  
Lord Nelson Brewery
Louis Bouillot (Negociants)
Moppity Vineyards
Tyrrell’s Wines
Villa Maria
The Botanist Gin, Chartreuse, Cointreau, Fiorente, Macallan Whisky (Spirits Platform)
Kyrö Gin, Berry Bros & Rudd Gin & The Kings Ginger, Diplomatico Rum (Baranows Emporium)