An “extraordinary wine list that places Canberra in a world context” this week won The Boat House restaurant at Barton a prestigious national wine award.
Boat House sommelier Kate Hibberson’s “beautifully crafted” wine list saw the restaurant beat hot competition nationally to take out the Best Listing of a Region’s Wines gong in The Australian Wine List of the Year Awards.
Respected Braddon restaurant Italian And Sons took out Best Wine List ACT in the same ceremony, while Melbourne’s Attica Restaurant claimed the headline accolade, Australia’s Wine List of the Year.
Chair of Judges Peter Forrestal, who oversees a panel comprising 34 Australian and international Master Sommeliers, Masters of Wine, wine judges, educators and wine media, told Region Media the Boat House wine list was “an absolute delight”.
“The list shows meticulous attention to detail,” he says. “Not only do you have a brilliant ACT wine list but the beer list focuses very much on the ACT, and there’s a really nice non-alcoholic pale ale on the list as well. They’re covering all bases. Another of its strengths is that it offers verticals of many of Canberra’s best winemakers.”
He said the panel particularly loved a section the sommelier described as “fire and ice”.
“It looks at the difficulty Canberra vignerons faced during 2020 vintage – the extremes of ultra-chill, flooding, hail and bushfires. There was a real feel for the local area,” he says.
“Kate has placed the wines of Canberra in both an Australian and international context. It’s a beautifully presented list and has beaten a couple of the great Australian wine lists in a fiercely fought category.”
Kate Hibberson says her experience working in both restaurants and vineyards helped her craft the winning list.
“I know a lot of the winemakers and the wineries, and the growth in our industry and the quality of our wines over the past 10 years has been fantastic,” she says.
“There is great quality in terms of riesling and shiraz, which we know work in the area, but there is also a lot of experimentation; we’re seeing winemakers playing with different wines. We have so much to choose from.”
She added that the judges liked that she had included various vintages on the list.
“I’ve tried to build a nice little collection, a vertical of Helm Riesling from 2010, 2012 and the current vintage, and the same with Clonakilla shiraz, and Mount Majura. It’s not just the depth of the list, but it’s in the vintages too – holding some stock back to see what Helm and other icons look like in 10 years’ time.”
Italian and Sons’ “cerebral and wordly” wine list felt like “an extraordinary trip through Italy, showing the ordinary country wines, as well as the international classics – entirely in keeping with the cuisine of the restaurant”, Peter Forrestal added.
“If you want to learn about Italian wine, this is a really good place to go,” he says.
Italian and Sons owner Pasquale Trimboli, who curated the wine list, said the award was a “pat on the back” for everyone in the restaurant. He has previously won the same award for sister restaurant Mezzalira.
“The idea behind Italian and Sons when we opened 10 years ago was to do something unashamedly Italian – the whole experience of if you were to go to Italy, what would it be like. We took that approach with the wine list, too,” he says.
“The list is all about making sure you’ve got a good mix of wines to reflect the different regions of Italy. We can’t showcase all of them but we do have a really good selection of varietals, and we also source from small producers who are doing incredible things.”
National Wine Show of Australia Chair Andy Gregory said the Boat House award reflected the rise and rise of wines from the local area.
“Canberra Region wines have performed outstandingly well on the national stage in the last 10 years. Many have achieved gold medal and trophy status in the national wine show and are joining the ranks of the already established icons such as the Clonakilla shiraz viognier,” he said.
“Leading restaurants have capitalised on this success by strengthening the representation of regional wines on their wine list.”
Rob Hirst, who founded the Wine List of the Year Awards 27 years ago to help gain recognition and status for sommeliers and wine industry professionals, added that the results showed not only the high standard of wine lists in Canberra, but “the wonderful resurgence in food and wine in Canberra, using produce from around the area – both grapes and food”.
“You’ve got an extraordinary population [in the ACT]. In terms of a concentration of people who are wine savvy and appreciative, there wouldn’t be a greater per capita in any other city in Australia,” Rob says.
“Our awards MC Peter Marchant said the explosion in the quality of wines that come from the Canberra Region is matched by the restaurant offer … and the wine list is the best way to reflect that.”