The 2021 Wineslinger Awards – the wine guru’s guide to the best haunts in Australia right now – have just been announced. Following last year’s virtual awards presentation, the 2021 Wineslinger winners were crowned at a proper get-together celebration in Melbourne.
As voted on by over 150 of the country’s leading sommeliers, winemakers, hospitality tastemakers and journalists, the four trophies presented were the top spot ‘Wineslinger’; ‘Best New Haunt’, for the best newcomer; the ‘Maverick’, recognising a venue pushing the boundaries of possibility; and the publicly voted ‘People’s Choice’.
People’s Choice: Good Gilbert (Goodwood, South Australia)
“It’s been a delight to see things reopening around Australia in the last couple of months, so we can get back to enjoying those venues we love so much,” said Wineslinger founder Rory Kent. “And with interstate borders soon to reopen, we’re all looking forward to visiting those special places around the country once again,”
With this year’s Top list expanding to include 100 venues from around the country, it just shows how much industry depth there is, and how many exciting things are happening across both city and regional locations around Australia.
“These places bring joy and thrill and a sense of discovery and adventure to wine,” continued Kent. “They’re places where we all go to discover something new – and have fun doing so. And don’t we all deserve a bit of that after a tough 18 months of restrictions. While we recognise these four outstanding trophy winners right now, all of these venues around Australia – and perhaps particularly those states hit hardest by the pandemic – deserve to be celebrated and supported.”
The Wineslinger – Embla
In much needed good news for Melbourne – after becoming the world’s most locked down city – Embla was named the 2021 Wineslinger. After being closed for months, it was a welcome win for owners Christian McCabe (front of house) and Dave Verheul (chef). Embla has become a Melbourne icon in quick time, a dogma-free temple to wine that is made from the ground up, by hand and with minimal tinkering, and all paired with Dave Verheul’s breathtakingly simple fire-fuelled cooking. It’s a place you slip into effortlessly, with a warm and generous air – absolutely of the moment, but not concerned with fashion and timeless because of it.
“During a year when a lot of our hospitality was packed up into bags and delivered to people’s homes, this is an amazing achievement,” said McCabe. “We are so lucky to have such a strong team who have stuck by us through all that has happened, and now that our city is back open, it’s so great to see so many familiar faces out and enjoying life again.
“The Australian wine scene continues to grow ever more diverse and dynamic, and we are so proud to be in the centre of it all and able to once again do what we love. Congratulations to all our team and suppliers, as well as all the other restaurants and bars that have managed to navigate through these past few months, this one’s for all of us.”
The Best New Haunt – P&V Merchants Paddington
Best New Haunt was awarded to Sydney’s P&V Merchants, Paddington. An expansive bottle shop and wine bar offering a treasure trove of lo-fi goodies that’s also uniquely integrated to a bistro upstairs (Porcine). The Paddington outpost of the much-loved P&V in Newtown gives customer a chance to stick around a bit longer, drinking in to taking advantage of Lou Dowling and Mike Bennie’s endlessly thoughtful selection of handcrafted goodies.
“This award is a huge reward for our vision, and more importantly a team who have worked so damn hard to make something unique and special happen,” said Dowling. “This award resonates across Australia, and we’re so stoked to be in the ranks of other amazing places we love repeat visiting – it’s a big thing we’re taking home for our team and community who supports us.”
“This is pretty amazing,” added Bennie. “A bold idea, executed by a rag-tag mob, albeit pros, and thrust into a part of Sydney that already has a strong culture of hospitality, and an outcome that results in this thrilling award for us all, for our team… pinch me! P&V does what it does to enhance and support community, and this reinforces we’re doing good things – a humbling and positive outcome from an award with contemporary relevance. Thanks to all who support us and the dynamic mob who make the gears turn fast.”
Si Paradiso – The Maverick
Perth’s Si Paradiso has taken the Maverick, for a venue that takes its wine as seriously as it does its quest for good times. Incredibly inclusive, whether you’re there for a quick wine in the courtyard, a civilised meal in the dining room, or an all-out boogie. The wine list is packed with new-wave, lo-fi and organic options. Its vibe is definitely out there, a sort-of long lost discoteca straight from 1980s Italy. Then there’s chef Paul Bentley’s food, which is as good as modern Italian gets. Pizza may be the focus, with a dough that’s fermented for 96 hours, but it’s hard to look past snacks like lobster tramezzini, kingfish crudo sheathed in XO sauce and ginger oil, and wagyu beef spiedini brushed with tomato and chilli butter.
“I still can’t believe we were named in the TOP 100 spots to drink vino in Australia [and Top 10 in Perth]; it’s such an honour!” said owner Cale Mason. “Then to take the spot as Maverick is f-ing wild!
“The Paradiso list and cellar was a lot of fun to create; the idea is not to follow any rules, be very personal and fully immerse into the experience of the venue, the music, service, food and energy. Everything we do must embody that, and wine has become a huge part of that story since we opened – wines of energy, that speak of time, location, and those wines that excite me. …So, thank you to everyone who makes the wine, I feel incredibly lucky I get to drink and share them!”
Good Gilbert – The People’s Choice
Good Gilbert is the kind of local we all wish we had, with an exciting, diverse and well-priced wine list, en pointe simple food and uber-friendly but deeply knowledgeable crew. It’s the ideal of a local wine bar.
“We are absolutely blown away to be named People’s Choice,” said owner Wilson Shawyer, “up against so many wonderful operators across the country who we know have long-standing supporters and have been doing it for a lot longer than us.
“Coming up to our 1st birthday this Thursday, which in a very volatile time for our industry, stands to show, how amazing and supportive our customers and peers in the industry are, allowing us to be constantly creative with our wine offering, food and service. …We will continue to be a bar for the people, open and accessible to everyone, from all walks of life.”
For the first time, each Wineslinger trophy winner received an immersive wine experience hosted by Prue, Stephen and Justine Henschke with Henschke Wines in South Australia. While Swinney Wines in Frankland River (WA) will also host an experience for Perth’s Si Paradiso.
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