Sommelier’s Choice

Stuart Knox, Owner, Fix Wine

111 elizabeth st, sydney, NSW,

It’s difficult to believe that Sydney’s Fix Wine Bar (formerly known as Fix St James) turns 13 this year. “When we opened there were few wine bars in Sydney,” said Stuart Knox. “There was little concept of just calling in and having a glass of wine and a snack, and it was challenging to get people’s heads around the idea,” he reminisced. “Thankfully the ‘small bar’ shift in 2008 really changed that.”

After waiting around various Sydney venues during the early and mid-’90s, Knox moved to London in 1998 and landed an assistant sommelier job at Bibendum Restaurant, where he stayed for three years with wine buyer Matthew Jukes. “As far as wine goes, that was the turning point. When I came back [to Sydney] I worked at Level 41 for three years; 18 months after that I opened Fix St James – and have been chained here ever since,” he laughed.

Knox is renowned for his by-the-glass focus on avant-garde wine styles and lesser-known producers. “I recently looked at the first wine list I did here. At the time it felt really left of field with lots of alternative varieties. Now it’s the most boring, commercial thing ever.” But he maintains it was a step in the right direction, and he’s been treading a similar path ever since. “I’ve always aimed to be a bit interesting,” he explained. “Australians are becoming more adventurous in what they drink and we’ve noticed that the more wines we have available by the glass, the more people will branch out.”

Knox believes Tasmania will be Australia’s epicentre of fine wine (“once the vines get to a decent age”) but is equally excited by the weird and wonderful producers coming out of the Adelaide Hills, and the experimental techniques being harnessed in Margaret River and the Hunter Valley. “Margaret River tends to be a bit forgotten because they’re just punching out great wines year after year, but some of the new generation of winemakers are doing new and interesting things. Similarly, in the Hunter, there’s a bit of a generational shift happening, with some of the younger guys trying new techniques with traditional varieties.”

As the warmer months approach, Knox said he’ll be pouring more rosé (although he admitted that, by the glass, it “never really stops” throughout the year). “If there’s a wine that really improves with food, it’s rosé,” he said. “When there’s some simple food, like salumi or cheese, it really jumps out of its skin.” Knox’s ultimate spring pairing is Fix’s haloumi and tomato salad with mint and citrus oil with the 2019 Vinden Headcase Rosé from the Hunter Valley. “The acid from the semillon cuts through the haloumi. An absolute banger.”

Photography by Alan Benson