Top 5 Sommeliers
I’ve become a bit of a sommelier groupie of late. I’ve found myself deciding where to eat based on who’s likely to be pouring my wine. The role of sommeliers (wine waiters) has come a long way in Australia in the past 10-15 years. My interest started with the likes of the legendary Charles Leong (who I met at MG Garage but now just keeps ‘appearing’ in new restaurants); Nick Hildebrandt from Bentley Group (who still pours some of the best rieslings I’ve ever tasted); Franck Moreau (Merivale Group) and John Clancy (ex-Quay and Guillaume). But lately I’ve met a whole new generation of passionate oenophile professionals eager to share their vinous discoveries. Do yourself a favour and, next time you’re deciding what to drink, put the wine list aside and ask the sommelier. Here are five who never steer me wrong.
Louella Matthews Bibo Wine Bar
Louella’s passion for edgy wines, skin-contact or otherwise, is as contagious as Jose Silva’s cooking is addictive. I love the Alsatian-style field blend (different grapes grown in the one vineyard, in this case riesling, gewürz and pinot gris) from Swinney in Western Australia’s Great Southern that she poured for me recently.
Nick Hildebrandt Bentley Group
Whether I’m at the flagship Bentley Restaurant & Bar, wine bar Monopole, Sydney’s best vego haunt Yellow or enjoying excellent seafood at Cirrus at Barangaroo, I must admit I’m there as much for Nick’s exciting wine pairings as I am for Brent’s superb cooking!
Max Gürtler Momofuku Seiōbo
Sure I love Paul Carmichael’s spicy fish head and roti … but it’s the orange wines Max pours with it that I’m addicted to. There’s a new one every time I visit (watch my Instagram feed for proof), such as the Roche Blanche from young French artisan Jean-Yves Peron.
Tim Watkins Automata
I discussed wine with Tim for years at Pilu at Freshwater, home of Sydney’s best Italian wine list. Now he’s stretching his geographic wings and pouring the German Fledermaus (skin-contact Müller-Thurgau and Silvaner), a hit with Clayton Wells’ coconut, black sesame & rockmelon dessert.
Gavin Wright Wyno
At Chow Bar & Eating House it was hard to decide what I enjoyed more, Chui Lee Luk’s cooking or Gavin’s wine matches. We bonded over a love of Manzanilla, our most recent discovery being the delicate Rey Fernando de Castilla. Gavin moves around a bit, but he’s most recently been spotted at Wyno, the bar on the old 121BC site behind Porteño.