It’s been a little quiet here at Australian Wine Review over the past week and a bit, as I’ve been head down judging this year’s Australian Wine List of the Year Awards. And after examining 50 lists from all over the country, I’m again reminded how many great restaurants and real diversity we have here in Australia.
We’ve got it good.
Still, it’s frustrating when I sit here and think that a large portion of the venues that submitted lists in Victoria & NSW are currently closed in lockdown. Heartbreaking to think that some won’t come back out this time…
Anyway, I can’t give away any results (because they haven’t been decided), but it was fascinating to see a few trends pop up consistently, including:
- Prosecco as a goto sparkling instead of traditional bottle-fermented Australians. Some of it is local Prosecco, but mostly it’s Italian. That’s a reflection on the broader market, where Prosecco is growing exponentially, typically at the expense of ‘classic’ Australian sparkling.
- Non-alcoholic options are more popular (and important) than ever. Two years ago I first noted the proliferation of mocktails and alcohol-free drinks. Now it is bigger than ever. Heaps Normal XPA is everywhere, for example, as are the Seedlip non-alcoholic spirits. This is a category that will only get more important, and if you’re not doing it right, you’re missing a trick.
- Most beer lists are still terrible. When will restaurants realise that there is money (and customer loyalty) to be had with craft beer? Four lagers and a Pale Ale a great list does not make. Some very famous restaurants are guilty of this, while the very very best have a selection that traverses light beer to barrel-fermented Wildflower and La Sirene ales. Don’t fuck up your excellent wine list with bad beers!
- Aperitifs are back. Not just hamfisted spritz, but genuine aperitifs too.
- Etna, Chardonnay, Barolo/Barbaresco, Jura – (still) hot right now.
- While Coonawarra Cabernet; any Shiraz Viognier outside of Clonakilla/the Northern Rhone and Australian Viognier slips off lists.
- Good Coravin selections are critical. If you’re not tapping into a stock of premium offerings by the glass from Coravin bottles, you’re behind the pace. It means that poor wine writers can afford to drink great white Burgundy beyond wine judges dinners.
Meanwhile, one of the few bottles opened in recent weeks was another of the Louis Pommery England Brut. The style hasn’t changed much in this iteration from the review here, but I think it’s gained a bit more depth. Still bracing, still tight and light and all that. But it also tastes like the future – and is a very refreshing drink. Pricey at $100, mind you, but a very worthy alternative to NV Champagne.