Obscure wines on wine lists
The scene is a small, fashionable, slightly quirky and quite highly regarded ‘ethical, sustainable’ restaurant in suburban Sydney*, which scored 15 points and one chef’s hat in the current Fairfax Good Food Guide.Obscure wines may be OK, but they demand a knowledgeable sommelier or waiter who can explain them to mystified diners.
Two of us were dining and I was driving home (mainly because suitable public transport was virtually impossible), which meant we’d be drinking by-the-glass wines. (Our request for BYO was turned down.)
We ordered food. Next, the wine list.
There were 17 dry whites, five of which were described as ‘natural’, and two as organic or biodynamic. There were four whites by the glass, none of which I wanted to order.
Rosé: there were six wines, including two ‘natural’ and one organic/biodynamic. I recognised none of them.
Reds: there were 19 wines, four ‘natural’, six organic/biodynamic, and four more that I knew to be in the natural wine camp, but could not vouch for their quality. There were four wines by the glass, two of which I could order with some confidence.
But the fact remains that this is a totally unsatisfactory wine offering. The food was excellent and deserved better accompaniment.
The breakdown for the total of 48 white, red, sparkling and rosé was just 16 wines that I recognised and would feel safe ordering, but, of these, only two were available by the glass – and we drank them as I’ve mentioned.
This kind of esoteric wine list is very common in Sydney restaurants today. Indeed, I would venture that it has become the norm.
Obscure wines may be OK, but they demand a knowledgeable sommelier or waiter who can explain them to mystified diners. At one point I asked for some input from our waiter, and he replied that he was new and didn’t know much about Australian wine. There was no sommelier on the floor.
I wish I could say that this was a rare experience dining out in Sydney, but unfortunately, it’s not. A week rarely goes by that I don’t hear similar complaints from people I meet, many of whom have above-average wine knowledge.
*The restaurant was Three Blue Ducks, in Bronte.