It’s the night of nights for the nation’s top sommeliers, gathering together at the Electrolux Showroom in Sydney for an evening spent toasting the top collections of wine, beer and spirits in Australia. The Awards consistently give key insights into the current and future trends, as noted by the judging panel, including Gourmet Traveller WINE contributor Jeni Port.
“Vegan- and vegetarian-friendly wines is definitely a growing category with some lists offering vegan tasting menus,” noted Port. “More and more lists are embracing Coravin and lists promoting women winemakers are definitely out there and I’m expecting them to become more prevalent.”
The event followed the new format launched last year, with sommeliers invited to an afternoon of wine and spirit masterclasses followed by tastings of wines from top Australian and New Zealand producers. With names such as Henschke, Terra Sancta, Yarra Yering and Ata Rangi on pour, sommeliers were spoilt for choice.
It was the job of MC and Brisbane wine personality Peter Marchant to draw the attention of guests away from the tastings and onto the much-awaited ceremony. Marchant began by acknowledging sponsors Gourmet Traveller WINE, Drinks Association, Riedel, Vintec and Wine Australia before welcoming the Wine List of the Year Awards’ founder Rob Hirst to the stage. He thanked everyone involved in celebrating the Awards’ 26th year.
Marchant returned to the stage to acknowledge all of the lists which received the prestigious three-glass rating alongside the new inductees into the Hall of Fame including Aria, Brisbane; Stillwater in Tasmania; and Chiswick, Woollahra in Sydney.
It was onto the highly anticipated category winners, starting with the Tony Hitchin Award for the Best New Wine List awarded to Sydney steakhouse Bistecca, for the Italian-inspired list created by sommelier Alice Massaria.
Congress and Ishizuka, both in Victoria, were joint winners of the Best Small Wine List (50 Wines), with judges finding exceptional creativity in both wine lists. Also acknowledged for their ability to create a small list packed with power was Hobart’s Institut Polaire which was awarded Best Small Wine List (100 Wines).
One of the most popular categories as stated by Hirst was the Best Food and Wine Matching List which was awarded to Sydney’s Caribbean restaurant Momofuku Seiōbo. Creating non-alcoholic options can be seen as a challenge for some, but it’s safe to say Victoria’s Attica has it down pat by winning the Best Non-Alcoholic List for the second year in a row.
Sydney’s Bentley Restaurant + Bar took out Best List of Wines by the Glass for the second year running, while also adding the title of Best Digestif List to their accolades. The Gourmet Traveller WINE Readers’ Choice Award was won by Canberra’s Muse and presented by editor Judy Sarris to sommeliers Paul Eldon and Daniel Sanderson who also received a Coravin Model 2 Elite as part of the award.
In its second year, the Vintec Sommeliers’ Choice Award, voted on by sommeliers, was won by Bridget Raffal (Sixpenny, Sydney) who was complimented for her immaculately curated list.
Finally, it was the moment everyone had been waiting for: Marchant kept the room in suspense for the announcement of Australia’s Wine List of the Year. The room erupted as Est. was crowned the winner, meaning Bhatia Dheeraj received the Judy Hirst Award for sommelier responsible for the winning list. It was a successful night for the Sydney venue, also awarded the Best City Restaurant List and titled the state winner for New South Wales.
Dheeraj, who first developed his sommelier skills in Raffles Hotel Singapore and three Michelin-starred Robuchon au Dôme in Macau, was joined on stage by other members of the Merivale beverage team, Franck Moreau MS and Jean-Charles Mahe. Dheeraj thanked his team and acknowledged the role of mentorship and dedication in creating successful wine lists.
Discover a list of all the winners and finalists here.
➼ Ata Rangi
➼ Chain of Ponds Wines
➼ First Drop Wines
➼ Highbank Wines
➼ Howard Park
➼ Jansz Tasmania
➼ Luna Estate
➼ McWilliam’s Wines
➼ Pepper Tree Wines
➼ Terra Sancta Wines
➼ Yarra Yering
➼ Bisleri Water
➼ Estrella Damm, Manly Spirits, The West Winds Gin, Patient Wolf Distilling Co. (100Proof)
➼ Atomic Beer Project, Matso’s Broome Brewery (Gage Roads Brewing Co.)