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.

wine, wine advice, sommelier

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!

The Ultimate Wine Guide with Kim Brebach

Don’t go breaking the bank on an expensive bottle of wine you don’t know anything about. This party season, we’ve enlisted the help of Kim Brebach, the $20 Wine Guy and founder of The Best Wines Under 20, about the best reds, whites, and bubbles which all fall under a good price range.

If you don’t know your Pinot Gris from Pinot Noir, check out Kim’s ultimate guide to wine so you always have the best!

RELATED: 4 Australian Wine Regions You Must Visit

What are the best wines for gifts?

  • If it’s for a family member or close friend, you’ll have an idea what they like, so that’s easy
  • For a friend or colleague who knows her wines, ask your wine merchant to suggest an unusual wine that indicates you’ve gone to some trouble to surprise them
  • If you want to impress someone, choose a known brand champagne like Moet, or a Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz – if it’s a guy
  • For your dad, ask him – he may prefer a bottle of single malt whiskey!
  • If you’re not sure, a gift pack will always be welcome – you’ll find these at most wine retailers

Which wines work well with seafood?

Sauvignon Blanc or Semillon/Sauvignon blends tend to work best with fresh, simply cooked seafood including cold prawns. Most wine writers suggest a young and astringent Riesling but most of these are too fruity to match salty and savoury seafood. This also applies to some of the cheaper sauvignons from Marlborough. A few recommendations include:

  • Yealands Land Made Sauvignon Blanc 2013: $14 at Kemenys (Marlborough)
  • Vavasour Sauvignon Blanc 2013: $13 at WSD (Marlborough)
  • Cape Mentelle Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2014: $20 at MyCellar (Margaret River)
  • Lobster Mornay or spicy Asian seafood may need something with more flavour, such a Chardonnay or Pinot Gris.

What are the best wine varieties for a party or get-together?

  • Office party: Moscato or Prosecco have festive bubbles but they’re more frizzante than spumante (fully sparkling). More important is that they’re lower in alcohol than standard sparkling wines so people should leave the office party in better shape.
  • Friends and nibbles: Rosé goes with various nibbles including tapas and ham. Montepulciano is a terrific, light pizza red. Riesling is great with cold chicken, and Sauvignon Blanc compliments prawns really well.
  • Formal occasion: Pink bubbly and sparkling shiraz tend to be winners but the latter can be fairly alcoholic so be careful. A big Chardonnay is another good option

If that’s all too hard, keep in mind that the folks in Champagne drink their bubbles with anything and everything, so you could choose a good Aussie bubbly and do the same. A couple of examples include:

  • Madame Coco Brut NV: $14 at  Kemenys
  • Petaluma Croser NV: $17 at Our Cellar

What are some of the most popular wines, and what do they taste like?

  • Sparkling wine, regardless of colour, should have a strong mousse (the bubbles on top) and a fine, persistent bead (the tiny bubbles coming up from the bottom of the glass)
  • Riesling should smell and taste of limes, talc, hints of minerals and have a dry finish
  • A good Chardonnay is full and round and tastes of white peaches and cashews or almonds
  • Sauvignon Blanc should smell of gooseberries, lantana, freshly cut grass and even cat pee (seriously) The taste should be fresh, tangy and savoury
  • Good Pinot Gris or Grigio smells and tastes of ripe pears & apples, with hints of ginger
  • Cabernet Sauvignon smells and tastes of blackberries, black currants and cassis, with hints of vanilla and pencil shavings from oak maturation. Feels cool in the mouth
  • Merlot is a softer wine with ripe, plush fruit in the plum spectrum, with a velvet softness.
  • Shiraz is usually a big-hearted, warm and friendly kind of guy, with ripe, warm red berry fruit and spices like black pepper

What are some of your favourite wines?

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