Category Archives for "Sommeliers Corner"

Sommelier Wine Tasting

Sommeliers Series – Designing a Wine List

Enter any great restaurant and within minutes of being seated, your waiter will proudly give you two things, the list of food designed by the chef, and the list of wine designed by the sommelier.

The importance the wine list plays in your dining is often overlooked, as is the amount of time and knowledge that goes into creating a list.

We asked our team of international sommeliers to answer some questions to learn more about their beliefs in creating their restaurant’s lists.


“Creating a wine list is an intricate task that requires the harmonious balance between location, food, clientele, seasonality, market and last but not least, your personal fingerprint as a sommelier. A process that must be enjoyed and cherished” explains Andres Aragon – 360 Bar and Dining (Sydney)

“The wine list is a reflection of the personality of the sommelier and the restaurant concept” explains Andrew Cullen Master Sommelier (Dubai)


“A wine list should contain a broad spectrum of products to cover all tastes, ideally cover a good range of price points to accommodate all budgets. The focus of the list should be tuned to the (usual) customer base.” Chris Ihm – Steel Bar and Grill (Sydney)

Both Andy Cullen and Mikee Collins – Nola Smokehouse (Sydney) believing in having a strong and plentiful selection of “wine by the glass”.


“I don’t try to avoid any particular regions, but I will put a certain focus on certain regions I feel passionate about.” Says Zack Musick – Merimans (Hawaii)

Emmanuel Benardo – Unlisted Collection (Singapore) is right on the money “I don’t avoid anything! All booze is great and all have a time and place!”. And Andy Cullen adds “I’m not a fan of overly commercial wines that don’t have a varietal or regional character”.


This was an interesting question with the closest margin being Chris at Steel Bar and Grill and Mikee at Nola who were basically 50 / 50, Andrew Cameron at and Emmanuel Bernardos in Singapore both at 40% white and 60% red, where as Zack Musick at Merrimans in Hawaii is closer to 30% white and 70% red wine.


Andrew Cullen explained, “only new world wine should be done by varietal, old world should be by region”. Listing categories are also becoming less strict and traditional, “my lists are categorised by texture and weight, so varietals are less intimidating for guests to explore. For example in whites is list Fresh & Bright Textural, Oxidative and On Skins Silky, and Soft & Rounded” explains Andrew Cameron – Burnt Ends (Singapore).


Sommeliers all agreed on a foundation of the classics with a changing selection of up and coming. The most common white varietal was (thankfully) clearly Chardonnay.

Here is Andres Aragon’s exact breakdown example

70% classic varietals in a variety of styles and interpretation within same variety/pricing

  • 3 Chardonnays
  • 3 Sauvignon Blancs
  • 3 Rieslings
  • 3 Pinot Gris/Grigio
  • 1 Semillon
  • 1 Gewürstraminer

30% up and coming varietals and styles that would constantly change

  • 1 Gruner Veltliner
  • 1 Viognier
  • 1 Chenin Blanc
  • 1 Roussanne
  • 1 Albarino
  • 1 Vermentino


Once again, the sommeliers gave very detailed lists with old and new world wines popping up from across the globe. Pinot and Cabernet clearly the most popular, but it was great to see a wide mix as seen here by Zacks list

  • 6 Pinot Noir (California, Oregon, Burgundy)
  • 6 Cabernet (California, Bordeaux)
  • 2 Syrah (Northern Rhone South Australia)
  • 1 Grenache (Southern Rhone)
  • 1 Merlot (Bordeaux)
  • 1 Malbec (Mendoza)
  • 1 Tempranillo (Rioja)
  • 1 Nebbiolo (Piedmont Barolo)
  • 1 Sangiovese (Montalcino)

Next time you get handed ‘the list’ take a minute to understand the philosophy behind it, and the regions and varietals included. Have a chat to the sommelier ask for a suggestion, try going by the glass instead of by the bottle so you can something new, and have an old favourite.

 Originally posted by our friends at Alsaker

Sommeliers Series – Introduction

Sommelier is simply defined as ‘a wine waiter’, but that’s like saying Penfold’s Grange or Chateau Margaux are simply bottles of wine.

Sommeliers are passionate experts that have dedicated themselves, and their career, to learning and understanding every nuance and characteristic of wine and wine regions worldwide.

Don’t for a second think that after a weekend in The Hunter Valley trying wine you can match it with a sommelier, as you haven’t even begun to scratch the surface.

For the best sommeliers, it’s a dedication, an obsession.

Tony has been talking to a handful of sommeliers around the world learning more about their philosophy in wine, how they design wine lists, pair wine with food and work with executive chefs.

Part 1 is simply an introduction to the series and a list of the amazing sommeliers that will be sharing their insight and passion with us in the months to come. We thank each of the following rock stars for taking the time to share their knowledge. If you ever have the opportunity to drink and dine in their restaurants make sure you introduce yourself.

Andres Aragon
Group Sommelier
360 Bar & Dining

I’ve known Andres for a few years, Chilean-born, great knowledge of international wines, introduced me to the Lebanese wine Chateau Musar

Andrew Cullen
Court of Master Sommeliers
Senior Operations Manager

I’ve loved Andy’s award winning lists for years, incredibly experienced, in Australia he headed wine at Guillaume, Catalina, and Bilson’s before moving to Dubai.

Andrew Cameron    
Beverage Director / Sommelier
Burnt Ends

The most unique in our group, Andrew is a mixologist, microbiologist and beverage expert. His understanding of flavour pairing is second to none.

Emmanuel Benardos
Group General Manager
Unlisted Collection Hotel Group

Mikee Collins
Wine List Curator
NOLA Smokehouse

I’ve known Mikee since 2011, he’s been in restaurants and bars for years and has a great outlook on interesting and well-rounded wine lists.

Zack Musick
Merriman’s Kapalua

I met Zack on holidays in Maui last year, when we visited our new favourite Merriman’s and we ordered a bottle of Chateauneuf-Du-Pape

Until next month and the start of our Sommeliers Series here are a few  movies every wine lover has to watch


1. Sideways

Two middle-aged men take a weekend trip to California’s Napa Valley. Paul Giamatti from the TV show Billions plays such a powerful pinot noir loving eccentric in the lead role that it single-handedly leads to a 30% increase in Napa Pinot prices almost overnight.

Siderways Trailer click here

2. Red Obsession

An Australian documentary narrated by Russell Crowe about the rising demand in China for the world’s best red wine, predominately French and Australian, and what that’s doing to prices and availability worldwide, and what the future hold for the wine industry.

Red Obsession Trailer click here

3. Somm

The Master Sommeliers Exam is the highest achievement for a professional sommelier. Somm is a documentary that follows the highs and lows of a group studying, or more correctly obsessing, over their upcoming for the exam and the future of their careers.

 Originally posted by our friends at Alsaker

Winter Wine: Should You Buy Wine by Time of Year?

Like food, certain types of wine taste and feel better according to the season. A perfectly chilled Rosé or Pinot Grigio may be perfect for a festive summer meal on an outdoor patio or by the water, but once the cold weather sets in, you may prefer winter wine that is a little heartier to enjoy with a heavy winter meal by a fireplace (or internal home heating system).

But do you really have to align your wine consumption with the seasons?

Cold Weather Wines

In wine as in life, rules are made to be broken. If your heart longs for a light and bubbly Prosecco in the middle of July, by all means, go ahead and enjoy it. The heart wants what it wants, after all. But if you like to pair your wine with food or like to explore the best wines of the moment, drinking seasonally has many advantages.

When it comes to the best wines to enjoy in winter, reds are an obvious choice, because heavier wines pair so well with most meat dishes and foods that are more popular in winter. Some of the usual suspects include:

  • Zinfandel
  • Bordeaux
  • Shiraz
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Malbec
  • Rioja
  • Barolo
  • Sangiovese

But what about that sparkling Prosecco? Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to store the whites away for the return of warm spring and summer weather. If you are a stickler for rules and order but still want to enjoy white wine in the winter, an oaked Chardonnay or sparkling is your best bet. Try full-bodied whites if you are looking for an alternative to reds for pairing with your favourite winter dish or stew.

Autumn Wines: The Perfect Way to Transition Into Winter Wine Drinking (Or Maintain a Bridge to Summer)

Even with perfect planning for seasonal drinking on your part, the weather doesn’t always cooperate. Winters can be unseasonably warm or longer/shorter than expected, and the calendar may say June but the temperature feel like December. In a global twist of irony, some of the best winter varietals come from countries with hotter climates, like Australia, South America and southern Europe.

Or if you just can’t let go of your favourite warm weather wines to embrace the Malbec or Shiraz, a medium-bodied fall red is the perfect compromise to help ease the transition.

Common autumn wines include:

  • Pinot Noir
  • Merlot
  • Cabernet Franc
  • Medium red blends
  • Sparkling wine
  • Viognier

Wine Temperature

Unless you’re drinking something like a mulled wine, a cold-weather drink by virtue of the fact that is served and enjoyed heated — which would make it difficult to enjoy in the summer — there are no hard and fast rules dictating when you can and should drink your favourite type of wine. Just keep in mind that certain wines are best enjoyed at a specific temperature regardless of the weather. Typical summer wines are best enjoyed chilled, and a traditional winter wine is best enjoyed at normal room temperature. If you frequently dine out, you will find that many restaurants offer seasonal wine menus that are complementary to the food. Think of it as the “eat local” iteration of wine drinking.

Ask a Sommelier

You don’t have to be (or have personal access to) a sommelier to find great wine to enjoy all year long. Learn more about our wine club subscriptions and let us bring your favourite bottles to you!