The big winners of Australia’s Wine List of the Year Awards were announced on Monday 25 September. In a culture that often focuses on the achievements of chefs, this award celebrates the best wine lists in the restaurant industry, giving sommeliers and bartenders their day in the spotlight.
A number of venues in the ACT have come out on top in these prestigious awards. The prize for Best Wine List ACT was taken out for the third time by Braddon institution Italian and Sons.
Their wine list was praised by judge and wine writer Mike Bennie who called it a “top-notch list, a destination anywhere in New South Wales for Italian fare and a flair for diversity of the offering”.
Italian and Sons co-owner Pasquale Trimboli attributes its ongoing success to the amount of time they’ve invested in their wine list.
“I suppose the real secret is that we’ve been doing this for 26 years and we have a loyal base,” he told Region.
“We have a great relationship with the winemakers that we tasted and sold when they were first starting out. We were supporting Tim Kirk before anyone had heard of Clonakilla!”
Other Canberra winners include Rizla, which was awarded the Australian Best Wine List of up to 100 wines for its Riesling-focused list. While that might seem like a lot, owner Andy Day explained that it’s not so big in the world of wine lists.
“It’s quite a compact list really: the overall winner Cirrus in Sydney has something like 1200,” he told Region.
“It can be hard to have a small list because you have to be very mindful of the wines you’re choosing. They all have to be brilliant.”
Brunello took out Best Wine List of ACT region wines, and along with Capitol Bar & Grill was a finalist for Best Wine List (ACT).
Along with the categorised trophies, entrants were also awarded one, two, or three ‘wine glasses’ for the quality of their list overall. Over 30 internationally renowned judges award points based on content, balance, suitability, presentation and pricing of the lists.
Capital Bar & Grill was awarded three wine glasses for their extensive wine list of over 200 bottles, 49 of which can be purchased by the glass. OTIS Dining Hall, Inka, Italian and Sons, and Brunello were also awarded three wine glasses.
This was the 29th year of the awards, which were established by Rob Hirst and his late wife Judy while they were running Sydney’s first wine and spirits merchant: Tucker Seabrook (est 1838).
Mr Hirst says that the overall quality of wines has improved since the awards’ inception.
“Since day one, we set the bar high for a wine list to achieve a three glass ranking. Our first awards in 1994 recognised nine lists with this outstanding honour, and it’s rewarding to see nearly 250 venues across the country achieve such a high-quality standard of wine list and service excellence 30 years after we started the program.”
Mr Trimboli agreed that the attitudes of customers and overall wine quality have changed over the course of his career in the industry.
“When we started a lot of quality Australian wines were just going to the export market, but we’re seeing more stay here. And the clients have changed too: they’re more adventurous now.”
Find the list of ACT winners at the Wine List of the Year Awards website.