Sydney waterfront restaurant Cirrus Dining has been crowned Australia’s Wine List of the Year at the 30th anniversary of Australia’s Wine List of the Year Awards ceremony, held on Monday night at the Ovolo Hotel in Woolloomooloo, NSW.
The seafood jewel in Bentley Restaurant Group’s crown of fine dining establishments, Cirrus Dining stood out among a record number of entrants at the milestone anniversary of the pinnacle industry event.
Bentley Restaurant Group is no stranger to presenting exceptional wine lists at Australia’s Wine List of the Year Awards, having won Wine List of the Year for Bentley Restaurant + Bar in 2015. In addition to the major award, Cirrus Dining also won Best Wine List NSW and Australia’s Best Restaurant Wine List – City, with Cirrus sommeliers Polly Mackarel and Nick Hildebrandt jointly receiving the Judy Hirst Award for the sommeliers responsible for the winning list. Bentley Restaurant Group’s Bentley Restaurant & Bar also received the award for Best Aperitif List.
Other finalists for this year’s major award include Merivale’s Mr Wong in Sydney and Andrew McConnell’s Gimlet at Cavendish House in Melbourne.
“Continuing on last year’s record number of entries, 2023 saw another record year– with a 19 per cent increase in venues submitting their lists for the Awards across all states and territories, demonstrating the growing number of restaurants, hotels, pubs, clubs and wine bars that realise the importance of a finely crafted wine and beverage list to the overall experience of diners,” said Peter Forrestal, chairman of judges.
“While most might consider it a cliché to describe the various contests involved in the judging as ‘fiercely fought’, the phrase does suggest the close margins involved in many of the decisions made by the judges. As always, more than 30 local and international wine writers and sommeliers ranked the six finalists to decide the winner. Out of the 192 votes cast, while Cirrus ended up the decided winner, only three votes separated second, third and fourth.
“The strength of the Sydney dining establishments was reinforced this year with four of the six finalists plying their trade there: with Mr Wong, Bennelong and Woodcut all finalists alongside Cirrus. Gimlet at Cavendish House and Cutler & Co were close enough to suggest that Victorian diners have much in which to delight.”
On Cirrus’ extensive wine list, Australia’s Wine List of the Year judge and wine writer Jane Faulkner said: “This is a spectacular, innovative and thrilling list showcasing 1200 special bottles with 50 by the glass. Plenty of joy and difference on each page – and who else could offer an extensive mix of French chenin blanc or 17 aligoté with each desirable and perfect for this top seafood restaurant. Bravo.”
Restaurants across the country were celebrated at the awards with Italian & Sons (ACT), Cirrus (NSW), Agnes (QLD), Restaurant Botanic (SA), Peppina (TAS), Gimlet at Cavendish House (VIC), and The Shorehouse (WA) recognised as the ‘Best Wine List’ in their respective states and territories.
Returning category winners from the 2022 awards include CHU by China Doll (Best Restaurant Wine List – Club), Settlers Tavern (Best Restaurant Wine List – Country), Stillwater (Best Listing of a Region’s Wines), and The Shorehouse (Best Wine List WA).
The number of wine lists submitted with under 200 wines was at a record high this year, with this excellent collection taking home five awards in total. This also reflects the judges’ shared recognition that it is harder to craft a great small list than a large one. The most popular categories entered this year continued from 2022’s popular categories: Best Wines by the Glass, Best Listing of Australian Wines and Best Food & Wine Matching – again all with a record number of entries.
The industry also celebrated its own at the ceremony, with the Sommelier’s Choice Award being bestowed upon two sommeliers – Foni Pollit from British-style gastropub Mayfair Lane (WA) and Alexandra McPherson from SK Steak & Oyster restaurant (QLD). The public also voted for Australia’s favourite wine list, with Catalina in Rose Bay (NSW) taking the title of Qantas Magazine | Travel Insider’s Australia’s Choice Award title.
With the growing diversity of Australia’s wine lists, several new Awards were added to this year’s event, including Australia’s Best Listing of Italian Wines which was awarded to Bistecca (NSW), Australia’s Best Listing of French Wines received by Society (VIC), Australia’s Best Cocktail List which went to Sarino’s (NSW), and Australia’s Best Listing of USA Wines which was given to SK Steak & Oyster (QLD).
The industry continues to excel in compiling and presenting top-quality wine lists, as noted by the outstanding 246 venues to receive a Three Glass ranking this year – up from 201 in 2022, a figure Rob Hirst, founder of Australia’s Wine List of the Year, recognises as a sign of the nation’s position as a world-class provider of exceptional wining and dining experiences.
“Since day one, we set the bar high for a wine list to achieve a Three Glass ranking. Our first Awards in 1994 recognised nine lists with this outstanding honour, and it’s rewarding to see nearly 250 venues across the country achieve such a high-quality standard of wine list and service excellence 30 years after we started the program. These venues should be very proud of all they have put into their lists, and we are very happy to bring the industry together to celebrate these outstanding venues and their talented sommeliers,” said Hirst.
Established in 1993 by Rob, his late wife Judy, and Tucker Seabrook, Australia’s Wine List of the Year Awards celebrates the depth of talent, dedication and sheer commitment of sommeliers and venue owners across Australia to build and maintain great wine lists and the cellars behind them.
The awards judging panel comprises of 32 of the world’s most respected wine industry talent. The panel is directed by Forrestal, alongside Deputy Chairs Jeni Port and Toni Paterson MW. Founder of the Court of Master Sommeliers Bryan Julyan MS is the International Chair, with 28 judges, including four Master Sommeliers and seven Masters of Wine, from Australia and the balance from New Zealand, Germany, the United States, France, Hong Kong, and Great Britain representing the international jury.
Australia’s Wine List of the Year Cirrus Dining
Judy Hirst Award Polly Mackarel & Nick Hildebrandt
Best Wine List ACT Italian & Sons
Best Wine List NSW Cirrus Dining
Best Wine List QLD Agnes
Best Wine List SA Restaurant Botanic
Best Wines List TAS Peppina
Best Wine List VIC Gimlet at Cavendish House
Best Wine List WA The Shorehouse
Australia’s Best Restaurant Wine List – City Cirrus Dining
Australia’s Best Restaurant Wine List – Club CHU by China Doll
Australia’s Best Restaurant Wine List – Country Settlers Tavern
Australia’s Best Restaurant Wine List – Hotel Woodcut
Australia’s Best Restaurant Wine List – Pub Mayfair Lane
Australia’s Best Wine Bar List – The Fiona Macdonald Award Where’s Nick
Australia’s Best New Wine List – The Tony Hitchin Award Olivine Wine Bar
Australia’s Best Wine List (50 Wines) Jimmy Wah’s
Australia’s Best Wine List (100 Wines) Rizla
Australia’s Best Wine List (200 Wines) Restaurant Botanic
Australia’s Best List of Wines by the Glass Rockpool Bar & Grill, Perth
Australia’s Best Food & Wine Matching List Amaru
Australia’s Best Champagne List Quay
Australia’s Best Sparkling List Cru Bar + Cellar
Australia’s Best Non-Alcoholic List Bells at Killcare
Australia’s Best Aperitif List Bentley Restaurant + Bar
Australia’s Best Digestif List Agnes
Australia’s Best Sake List Leonie Upstairs
Australia’s Best Beer List Mojo’s Kitchen & Bar
Australia’s Best Cocktail List Sarino’s
Australia’s Best Listing of French Wines Society
Australia’s Best Listing of Italian Wines Bistecca
Australia’s Best Listing of USA Wines SK Steak & Oyster
Australia’s Best Listing of a Region’s Wines Stillwater
Australia’s Best Listing of Australian Wines Café Sydney
Australia’s Best Listing of ACT Wines Brunello
Australia’s Best Listing of NSW Wines Charred Kitchen & Bar
Australia’s Best Listing of QLD Wines SK Steak & Oyster
Australia’s Best Listing of SA Wines Uraidla Hotel
Australia’s Best Listing of TAS Wines Peppina
Australia’s Best Listing of VIC Wines Lake House
Australia’s Best Listing of WA Wines Mojo’s Kitchen & Bar
Best Wine List – Sommelier’s Choice
Presented by VINTEC Mayfair Lane (Foni Pollit) & SK Steak & Oyster (Alexandra McPherson)
Best Wine List – Australia’s Choice
Presented by Qantas Magazine | Travel Insider Catalina
*New Inductee* – Cru Bar + Cellar (2022)
Ten Minutes by Tractor (2021)
Bentley Restaurant + Bar (2015)
Lake House (2014)
Rockpool Bar & Grill, Perth (2014)
Wickens at Royal Mail [as Royal Mail] (2012)
Pilu at Freshwater (2011)
Rockpool Bar & Grill, Melbourne (2010)
Rockpool Bar & Grill, Sydney (2009)
Aria (2003) – 20th Anniversary
David Lawler (2018)
Franck Moreau MS (2014)
Attica (Best Victorian Wine List) 2013, 2015, 2020
Blackbird (Best Queensland Wine List) 2017, 2018, 2020
Cru Bar + Cellar (Best Listing of Queensland Wines) 2019, 2020, 2021
Cru Bar + Cellar (Best Queensland Wine List) 2004, 2009, 2015
*New Inductee* – Point Leo (Best Listing of Victorian Wines) 2020, 2021, 2022
Rockpool Bar & Grill, Perth (Best WA Wine List) 2011, 2012, 2014
Settlers Tavern (Best Listing of Western Australian Wines) 2017, 2018, 2019
Stillwater (Best Tasmanian Wine List) 2016, 2017, 2018
*New Inductee* Stillwater, (Best Listing of Tasmanian Wines) 2016, 2019, 2022
The Boat House, (Best Listing of ACT Wines) 2019, 2020, 2021
Type of Trade Award Winners – Hall of Fame – 2023
Bert’s (Best Hotel Restaurant Wine List) 2018, 2019, 2020
*New Inductee* Cru Bar + Cellar (Best Wine Bar List) 2015, 2021, 2022
Glass Brasserie (Best International Hotel List) 2008, 2009, 2010
The Botanical Hotel (Best Pub Restaurant Wine List) 2012, 2013, 2014
Jonah’s (Best Hotel) 2015, 2016, 2017
Love, Tilly Devine (Best Wine Bar) 2013, 2016, 2017
Members Dining Room (Best Club) 2013, 2014, 2015 [as RACV City Club]
Newcastle Club (Best Club) 2018, 2019, 2021
Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron (Best Club) 2003, 2004, 2008
Settlers Tavern (Best Pub) 2009, 2010, 2011
Wickens at Royal Mail (Best Country Restaurant) 2009, 2011, 2012 [as Royal Mail]
Aria (Best Sparkling List) 2017, 2018, 2021
Attica (Best Non-Alcoholic) 2018, 2019, 2020
*New Inductee* Bennelong (Best Listing of Australian Wines) 2020, 2021, 2022
Chiswick, Woollahra (Best Small List-100) 2015, 2017, 2018
*New Inductee* Cru Bar + Cellar (Best Champagne List) 2018, 2021, 2022
Cru Bar + Cellar (Best Wine by the Glass List) 2017, 2020, 2021
*New Inductee* Ishizuka (Best Small List-50) 2020, 2021, 2022
Rockpool Bar & Grill, Sydney (Best Aperitif) 2011, 2012, 2017
Rockpool Bar & Grill, Sydney (Best Digestif) 2012, 2015, 2020
Aria (Reader’s Choice Award) 2011, 2012, 2013
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