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Industry Soms All Set to Shine

Published: (Updated: ) in Australian News by .

Ever been to a restaurant where the wine quality was better than the food? No, me neither. And perhaps that’s just as it should be. After all, isn’t part of the joy of eating out predicated on experiencing food aromas, flavours and textures that transcend the ordinary? Yet how many times do we diners find […]

Ever been to a restaurant where the wine quality was better than the food?

No, me neither.

And perhaps that’s just as it should be.

After all, isn’t part of the joy of eating out predicated on experiencing food aromas, flavours and textures that transcend the ordinary?

Yet how many times do we diners find ourselves facing the prospect of accompanying truly inspirational plates of food with wines that not only fail to complement the range of flavours and textures on offer, but turn out to be some of the dullest choices imaginable?

Or even worse, that we find our carefully chosen bottle turns out to be hopelessly flawed by winemaking faults, or afflicted with mind-numbing levels of alcohol, tannin or acidity?

Nobody enjoys paying through the nose for food and wine experiences that fail to meet expectation.

All of which is a roundabout way of saying that the organisers of Australia’s Wine List of the Year Awards should be widely commended for their ongoing commitment to their annual, consumer-focused initiative.

Many industry commentators believe the quality and diversity of restaurant, club and pub beverages have improved enormously since these national awards were first established 30 years ago.

Launceston’s Black Cow Bistro. Image supplied.

Entry in the 2021 competition opened on Monday 3 May. Participating establishments have until Friday 11 June to lodge their entries before formal judging processes commence. Presentation of awards will take place on Monday 27 September, 2021.

Last year saw Melbourne’s Attica scoop the pool, claiming the mantle of 2020 Wine List of the Year. Key floor staff Dom Robinson and Jane Lopes also shared the Judy Hirst Award for Sommelier of the Year.

The 2020 honour roll also included Launceston’s Black Cow Bistro (Best Wine List Tas) and Terrace Kitchen (Best Listing of Tas Wines and Best Club Wine List). As three-time Tasmanian winners, Terrace Kitchen (2008, 2009, 2019) and Launceston’s Stillwater (2016, 2017, 2018) were each acknowledged with a Hall of Fame rating.

More than 30 local, national and international wine industry professionals and wine communicators will be called upon to adjudicate in the 2021 awards. They include co-chairman of the award judging panel, Brian Julyan MS. The UK-based, highly respected chief executive of the Court of Master Sommeliers is an international wine show judge and published author.

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Award winners are selected by means of an exhaustive process, beginning with the submission of entry lists to local or regional panels and their respective deputy chairs.

Judging criteria are extensive, to say the least. They take into account content (on matters such as choice, quality, wines by the glass, older vintages, and digestifs), pricing (including value and appropriateness), balance and suitability (to food, style and image of the restaurant) and presentation (including being user-friendly).

Marks are awarded for each criterion and then collated. Quality ratings of three glasses (outstanding), two glasses (excellent) and one glass (recommended) are awarded to establishments that meet the standards required.

Lists from highly rated establishments in a variety of industry sectors then face even more rigorous scrutiny before category, state/territory and national award winners are determined.

“The aim of these awards is to recognise and reward the enormous investment by restaurant owners, managers and sommeliers in terms of the time, skill and resources that go into developing the best quality wine lists and cellars,” says Tucker Seabrook chairman Rob Hirst.

“Not only does Australia now boast an abundance of sommeliers, but those we have here are as well-educated and as experienced as those of any country in the world,” adds wine writer, food critic and co-chairman of the judging panel, Peter Forrestal.

Award founder, Rob Hirst. Image supplied.

That’s a significant source of pride for Hirst, who presides over Sydney’s oldest wine and spirit business. He established the awards with his late wife Judy, back in 1994. As a passionate supporter of food, wine and spirit education in Australia for more than 30 years, Hirst has seen his initiative find fertile ground in perhaps the most unlikely of places – the People’s Republic of China.

Hirst says China’s Wine List of the Year Awards sprang into being in 2012. Nine years later, the Australian and Chinese awards have each become the foremost industry awards in their respective countries.

“Prior to COVID-19, I was a regular visitor to China,” Hirst notes.

“Some years ago, I attended a media event where the head sommelier of the award’s top Chinese restaurant was asked what the competition meant to her.

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“‘My wine list is everything to me,’ she replied.

“‘It’s the face I have as a sommelier. It’s everything I’ve learned in my lifetime in wine. It’s my relationship with the chef in terms of pairing their food with the restaurant’s wines. It’s my relationship with the business owner who buys the wines that match our customer base and our company’s budget.

“‘That’s why I work so hard to get my wine list just right. I know how important it is to me and to everyone that’s connected to me and to our restaurant.'”

Launceston sommelier James Welsh. Image supplied.

James Welsh understands the passion, industry experience and tasting acuity that’s required for success in Australia’s Wine List of the Year Awards.

As sommelier and business co-owner of Tasmania’s high-profile Stillwater Restaurant and Black Cow Bistro, he’s devoted 15 years of his impressive career to the creation of innovative, award winning wine lists.

“I think my job in this whole process is the easiest to carry out because I provide wine producers with a platform that allows their products to show their best in a beautiful dining room, alongside good food,” Welsh explains.

“Meanwhile, they’re the people that remain out in the vineyard to work with their vines when it’s 40 degrees or minus 2 degrees. They’re the real heroes in this industry story.”

Let’s hope for more Tasmanian colour and movement in the 2021 event.

YouTube hosts a 46-minute video of the 2020 award presentations.



Hobart’s Mark Smith wrote his first weekly wine column back in 1994. Now more than 1700 features and 25 years later, he continues to chart the successes of Tasmania’s small scale, cool climate wine industry with regular contributions to some of Australia’s leading industry publications.


Mark gives you his honest opinions about the best wines available right now from Tasmania’s wine makers.


2014 Stefano Lubiana Blanc de Blanc $58

When Steve Lubiana arrived in Champagne for the 1986 harvest, spring and early summer had been damp and difficult for growers. But then the sun appeared and the remainder of the vintage was warm and sunny, resulting in good quality wines. Almost 30 years later, similar seasonal weather conditions at Granton produced this marvellously fresh and vibrant sparling, made entirely from Derwent Valley Chardonnay. Its citrus and brioche notes are a delight. They combine perfectly with the wine’s fresh acidity and attractive minerality to make this an excellent glass to enjoy alongside fresh oysters. Lovely.

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2019 Brown Brothers Patricia Chardonnay $45

Another year, another wine, the same fabulous quality and value for money – how does Tamar Valley winemaker Tom Wallace instil such consistency in these special reserve wines when vintage variation always plays a key role in their creation? Here, it begins with top-notch fruit, from Tasmania’s east and northeast. Then patience, talent and a certain amount of good fortune take over. White nectarine, citrus and oatmeal, the flavours flow with such elegance and finesse. Finally, the vibrancy of fresh Tasmanian acidity and a dab of lightly seasoned French oak emerge to seal the deal. Masterful.



2020 Moores Hill Pinot Gris $35

Julian Allport is a dab hand at making stylish Pinot Gris in the Tamar Valley. The 2019 was a smash hit among fans of the distinctive, cool climate variety and sold out very rapidly. In 2020, the winemaking trod something of an Alsatian path with the use of partial fermentation in old, rather neutral-flavoured French oak. Textbook stuff, but it worked. The neatly wrought pear and white peach characters are very food friendly. Match them with a vegetable pasta or a tasty pork cutlet, this is certainly a winning wine in the versatility stakes.



2017 The Ridge North Lilydale Pinot Noir $52

Pinot Noir is a wonderfully expressive variety under cool Tasmanian growing conditions, and few vineyards are cooler than The Ridge, perched on a hilltop some 360m above the township of Lilydale. The site is scrupulously managed by owners Sue Denny and Harry Rigney, so it’s little wonder this is a quality Pinot release that is only just entering its best drinking window. Red cherry and dark berry fruits are neatly framed by French oak before lingering natural acidity takes the wheel and drives the finish. Nicely done, Fran Austin. There’s some good winemaking on show.


Source: Tasmanian Times

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