Top Brisbane Sommelier Shares Wine Secrets

Brisbane is well and truly on the food and wine map, with amazing, top-quality dining experiences such as that of the award-winning Bacchus Restaurant and Bar, located on the podium level of Rydges South Bank.

RELATED: Top 5 Wondrous Winter Wines Under $25

Bacchus is widely regarded as one of the top restaurants in Brisbane having earned a range of accolades including Australian Good Food & Travel Guide 2014 Restaurant Awards – 2 Chef Hat Rating for two consecutive years. The award places Bacchus in the top three per cent of restaurants in Australia and in the top 10 in Brisbane. In addition, the restaurant and bar has been awarded Australian Gourmet Traveller Wine List of the Year – Three Glass Rating; Wine Spectator Award for Excellence – Glass Rating and many more.

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Head Chef Mark Penna is renowned for his exquisite menus, with the restaurant offering a la carte or degustation dining, as well as high tea. And with a name like Bacchus, after the Roman god of agriculture and wine, it’s only fitting that the restaurant and bar offers a top-notch wine list too, as it’s many wine accolades will attest. Here, Bacchus’ extremely knowledgeable, talented and witty head sommelier Andrew Giblin, 45, shares all his expert wine knowhow with SHESAID readers.

What’s your hospitality background and training?
I grew up on a farm in a wine region of South Australia and started working in restaurants to support myself while I was studying science at university. I found that I enjoyed working with wine, as well as drinking it, more than working with my degree. Since then, I have been fortunate enough to travel all over Australia and the world working with wine.

Did you always strive to become a sommelier?
Nope – I wanted to be fireman and a jet pilot… And maybe a rock star.

How important is a good wine list at Bacchus Restaurant and Bar?
Obviously, with a name like Bacchus, the wine list is always going to be integral to our operation. From the first, our owner has been extremely supportive and excited about providing a world-class wine list.

wine, wine advice, sommelier

How does your wine list change during winter?
The list is constantly evolving and changing – the wine list is less dependent on seasons and more about vintage. The Australian vintage and European are opposite, so it becomes about what is available and when. We try to provide the best of the best and that can mean we might only receive one or two bottles from a particular producer, so usually the biggest changes are when the new vintages become available.

What wines are on trend right now?
South American wine seems to be developing a following, particularly Argentina. They have world-leading malbec and really interesting torrontes (the native white variety).

What’s the hottest wine region of the moment?
Spain is really hot – Alvaro Palacios recently took out the gong from Decanter magazine for the world’s best winemaker. He is producing amazing wine from native varieties in Bierzo, Priorat and Rioja.

What is the restaurant’s top selling wine during winter and why?
People always love a good Barossa shiraz, particularly when the temperature dips. We have some great examples; currently we are featuring Penfolds, but also have some fabulous reds from Henschke, Kaesler, Kalleske, Torbreck, Maverick and Michael Hall.

What’s the one wine everyone wants, but no one can get? Usually, it’s the tiny production, top-end stuff, like Domaine de la Romanee-Conti or Domaine Coche-Dury. The entire Queensland allotment of Coche last year was three bottles!

wine, wine advice, sommelier

Is it fact or fiction that you have to spend a decent amount of money to get a good quality wine?
To some extent it is true, like all things – you get what you pay for. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some really good less-expensive wines, and conversely, that if you pay a huge amount for a bottle that is going to be awesome. I have tried some really expensive booze ($4K or $5kper bottle and up) that I didn’t rate at all.

You work with wine all day which sounds like the perfect job are there any downsides?
True, I get to taste a lot of wine, but I don’t get to drink a lot of wine. The travelling around the world trying new wines and meeting wine makers is great, but it can mean a fair amount of time away from your family staying in hotel rooms and hanging out in airports. So… No, not really.

Any advice for SHE SAID readers on how best to pair winter wines and foods?
Pairing wine can be tricky, but if you follow a couple of simple rules and be prepared to experiment, it can be very rewarding. Try to think of the origin of the dish, for example, is it from Italy? If it’s a rich, tomato pasta – then it’s probably going to match with a big, rich, Italian red. Spice likes spice so try a Gewürztraminer or a Riesling with Asian food. Meat loves native Bordeaux red varieties – so wine like Cabernet, Merlot, Malbec Camenere, Petit Verdot.

What’s your favourite wine?
Any wine that I have with friends.

What time is wine-o-clock for a sommelier?
Must be about now!