Australia’s Wine List of the Year + Best Country Restaurant List
Judy Hirst Award

Fermentasian
Grant Dickson

FermentAsian

90 Murray St, Tanunda 
(08) 8563 0765


fermentasian.com.au

Cuisine South East Asian
WINE LIST Grant Dickson & Geoffrey Hunt & Cassaly Fitzgerald
WINEs ON LIST 1093 (42 by the glass)
WINE PRICES $$ ($30-$9 by the glass)

Since its beginnings in 2010, FermentAsian has been on the radar of the judges of this award. It started with a modest international list, plus some non-Barossa-like local wines. The restaurant is a huge hit with the local community, especially winemakers attracted by Grant Dickson’s eclectic and innovative wine choices and the fact that he allows BYO. It received two glasses in its first year with 150 wines on the list. The list more than doubled in size in 2012 and FermentAsian received three glasses. It had about 700 wines for the next three years before leaping to 1,100 in 2016.

In 2010, the signs were not propitious. Its site in the main street of Tanunda had been spectacularly unsuccessful as a hospitality venue for at least a decade. The project was underfunded. The chef had no professional experience. The manager/sommelier was a musician. Asian food was hardly likely to enhance the region’s best known reds. 

And yet it was always a family restaurant with Tuoi Do abandoning banking to cook the traditional Vietnamese food of her homeland while her husband, Dickson, conducted the wine list. They have been supported since the beginning by Tuoi’s parents, Bang and Tinh, who work a large kitchen garden during the day and prep in the kitchen by night. Their very young daughters, Olivia and Isabel, often work the tables in their own way. Service is unobtrusive and efficient. Wine service is knowledgeable and quietly informative with Geoffrey Hunt handling cocktails and sommelier duties and Cassaly Fitzgerald responsible for aperitifs, digestifs and dessert wines. 

In 2016, a bright, spacious extension and a temperature-controlled wine room have transformed the place. The business has been fabulously successful. The food has garnered praise from all; Tuoi was Adelaide Advertiser Chef of the Year in 2012. The wine list was Best Country List and Best SA List for the past two years, and now has won Australia’s Wine List of the Year in its first year as a finalist.

Grant Dickson plays the oboe and cor anglais for the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, though not as often as he’d like to. He was wholesale manager for Rockford Wines for several years before starting FermentAsian. Grant approaches his task as curator of the wine list as a musician, poet, wine historian and wine lover, annotating many of the wines on the list. He’s enough of a businessman to realise not everyone will want to or have the time to meander through his magnum opus, so he also offers an abridged list of 100 wines without commentary.

Judge Andrew Jefford called the list “so extraordinary, so unique, so exuberant, so engaging and so involving. The riesling mirrors the way the list works… an omnibus of known and lesser-known Barossa, Adelaide Hills and Clare Valley wines; established, cutting edge – many with stories that tell of Grant’s history (salutes to the gifted Colin Forbes, John Vickery, the wild ‘oversized spirit’ of Duncan MacGillivray). Germany and Austria offer points of difference.”

Semillon is treated with more respect than it gets anywhere but the Hunter, an admirably balanced glimpse of the variety’s possibilities. Sauvignon blanc and chenin offer a strong sample of the world’s best. There’s a sizeable and eclectic range of chardonnay from Australia and France (four from the Jura, just in case). This must be Australia’s most interesting gathering of the other white varieties – its diversity offers any curious wine lover or Master of Wine student the opportunity to try something new.

The reds are just as diverse and comprehensive: gamay, pinot noir (especially from Burgundy) and grenache (including seven vintages of Cirillo 1850 Old Vine Grenache). Shiraz shines with multiple vintages of the Rockford gems. Cabernet is given an extra dimension with some Bordeaux bottles dating to 1924, from Jeremy and Heidi Holmes’s cellar. The Peter Lehmann cellar adds depth and offers some of the region’s finest wines stretching back to the 1950s, 60s and 70s. Judge Nick Ryan, sums it up: “It’s a find akin to Carter stumbling on Tut’s tomb when you come across a list like this no more than a lobbed pasty from the front door of the Apex Bakery.”

The reds are just as diverse and comprehensive: gamay, pinot noir (especially from Burgundy) and grenache (including seven vintages of Cirillo 1850 Old Vine Grenache). Shiraz shines with multiple vintages of the Rockford gems. Cabernet is given an extra dimension with some Bordeaux bottles dating to 1924, from Jeremy and Heidi Holmes’s cellar. The Peter Lehmann cellar adds depth and offers some of the region’s finest wines stretching back to the 1950s, 60s and 70s.

Judge Nick Ryan, sums it up: “It’s a find akin to Carter stumbling on Tut’s tomb when you come across a list like this no more than a lobbed pasty from the front door of the Apex Bakery.” PETER FORRESTAL

wine list of the year Finalists

Jonah’s

69 Bynya Rd, Whale Beach, Sydney
(02) 9974 5599


jonahs.com.au

CUISINEModern Australian
WINE LIST Luke Collard
WINEs ON LIST 1630 (70 by the glass)
WINE PRICES $$$ ($99-$10 by the glass)

Stupendous goes about halfway to describing this gargantuan yet brilliantly considered list. From enticing sherry flights to the superb digestif collection, there's an extraordinary wealth of wine and drinks, so much so that poring over this weighty tome is likely distracting for dining companions! A Coravin tool means that by the glass ranges from simple and delicious through to rare and complex, and allows diners to have an opportunity to see wines at peak maturity from oft-unseen producers. It's the tip of the iceberg though; the encyclopaedic list covers a true global span of the wine world, offering rafts of exquisite producers, and wines at the apex of their drinking. You could mention the colossal Burgundy listings, the horde of exceptional Champagne (from big house to unique growers), or wax lyrical about the jaw-dropping assortment of riesling, but there's so much here it's almost condescending to sommelier Luke Collard, a true pro, so leave your experience in his very fine hands. Everything about this wine program is brilliant.

Est.

252 George St, Sydney 
(02) 9240 3000


merivale.com.au

CUISINEContemporary
WINE LIST Paul Huet & Frank Moreau
WINEs ON LIST 1200 (23 by the glass)
WINE PRICES $$$ ($55-$14 by the glass)

This outstanding list has that rare ability of appealing to all.  It showcases the best of Australia, making it a first choice destination for visitors and locals alike.  And its stunning global spread will impress the most sophisticated, worldly palate.  Highlights include the comprehensive Champagne selection, the quality wines-by-the-glass, the mix of contemporary and classic Australian producers and the superb French collection.

best country Restaurant list Finalists

Provenance

86 Ford St, Beechworth
(03) 5728 1786


theprovenance.com.au

CUISINEContemporary
WINE LIST Damian Moylan
WINES ON LIST 350 (38 by the glass)
WINE PRICES $$ ($35-$12 by the glass)

An impressive list based on three corners - classics and usual suspects, emerging stars and regional gems. A fine collection of sake as well. look to the great local names such as Giaconda, Savaterre and Castagna or some of the exciting newer wineries. And of course, great fortifieds.

The Argus Dining Room

124 Main Rd, Hepburn Springs
(03) 5348 4199


theargusdiningroom.com.au

CUISINE Modern Australian
WINE LIST Jeremy Shiell
WINES ON list 525 (16 by the glass)
WINE PRICES $$$ ($25-$7 by the glass)

Relax, you’re in experienced hands, with a smart, well-conceived, exciting wine list that also manages a little wine education with superb tasting notes and specialist producer profiles. Local producers from the Macedon Ranges are well supported, yes, but this is just the start of an international wine journey dropping by small, edgy producers from the Yarra Valley to Burgundy and Piedmont and beyond. Look to the sub-headings: The Natural Ones, The Weird Ones, etc. for guidance. It's an exciting ride.