There’s been a lot of commentary this week in Australia on the merits or otherwise of wine lists in high-end Australian restaurants. Leading Australian wine writer Huon Hooke reported that “something has gone very wrong with Australia’s top restaurant wine lists. The rare and trendy dominate, with far too few Australian offerings“. Rather firm words. Andrew Graham in a good piece over at the Australian Wine Review fairly asks whether wine lists need to be local or just good, and rightly, I think, laments the apparent quality of the next layer down in restaurant wine lists. Many of the same coals were raked over in Steve Heimoff‘s article last week in the Californian context. Even Jamie Goode in the UK chimed in, although more about the trendy bit, than the local bit, as the latter is I expect a rather less pressing issue in English latitudes. Or at least perhaps beyond the sparkling page, where for the record, I am very impressed with the high quality of English sparkling.
My view? I enjoy Australian wine at all levels, from most regions and have written about it for a while now. There’s a lot to explore. I enjoy reading wine lists too, and seeing what’s new and interesting, both locally and overseas. My experience is that sommeliers care very much about their wine programmes at high end restaurants and will certainly have reasons for offering almost every wine on the list. Well, most certainly the good ones will. Selection will be a delicate balance between supply, demand, food matching, regions (including Australian regions), interest, look and feel, profitability, turnover, chef and proprietor input. I am sure sommeliers can contribute further. I suspect wines won’t be on the list just to look pretty or revel in obscurity for its own sake. Unless of course that’s actually the intention, in which case, well, good on them – that’s what the restaurant wants to try out. In fact, after reading Huon’s note, I wrote down a list of a couple of the producers, both Australian and foreign, that I hadn’t yet come across with a view to searching out their wines. So, perhaps for a rather different reason, I am pleased he wrote it.