The Carlton Wine Room in Victoria has won the 2020 Wineslinger trophy – a sweet victory after such a tough year.
Best New Haunt went to the Leigh Street Wine Room in Adelaide. The Maverick trophy went to Snack Man in Fortitude Valley in Queensland while Union Street Wine in Geelong won the People’s Choice trophy.
The Wineslinger Awards are the wine guru’s guide to the best haunts in Australia right now as voted on by more than 100 of the country’s leading sommeliers, winemakers, hospitality tastemakers and journalists.
“2020 has been the toughest year ever for Wineslingers in this country, and that’s made it equally tough on cutting edge winemakers who rely on the passionate individuals and their brilliant venues to capture the imaginations of wine lovers,” Wineslinger founder Rory Kent says.
“We’re so excited to celebrate the places and hospitality professionals serving up the best wine experiences in the country, and after months of lockdown and restrictions, getting back to supporting them in person.”
After being closed for almost seven months, it was a welcome win for the Carlton Wine Room trio of Andrew Joy (front of house), Travis Howe (sommelier) and John Paul Twomey (chef) who opened the venue in early 2018 and are blurring the lines between wine bar and restaurant to serve up Australia’s best wine experience in a cool, unpretentious environment.
“Andy and I love the Wineslinger awards because it’s people voting for the places that they actually love and want to go to,” Travis says.
“To be named with City Wine Shop and 10 William Street (2018 and 2019 Wineslinger trophy winners) is such a fast progression for us and so far ahead of where we thought we were, and the fact that we’ve been voted in by our peers in the industry is incredibly humbling.”
A temple of natural wine, Leigh Street Wine Room has made an immediate impression on the national Wineslinger panel of industry experts and announced itself as one of Australia’s best wine venues within just over a year of opening, with a 400-plus strong wine list and some of Adelaide’s best food.
“We’re absolutely ecstatic to have awarded Best New Haunt,” says Leigh Street Wine Room owner and chef Nathan Sasi.
“You don’t open a venue to receive an accolade, you open a venue to make people happy and have an enjoyable and memorable experience, and it just makes it better when people in the industry tap you on the back and say they want to recognise you for doing what you love.”
Snack Man serves up a tricky-to-match Chinese snacks with European wine gems, and they debunk wine and food pairing conventions. There’s a cellar of around 300 ‘unlisted’ wines at Snack Man, which guests have got to chat to the bar staff about in order to order – so patrons have to engage. This gambit could backfire but here it turns into an adventure.
The Snack Man wine bar goes hand-in-hand with their Happy Boy restaurant next door, which has a dedication to showcasing emerging Australian producers, with winemaker ‘takeover’ nights, and perhaps the most exciting lineup of house wines in Australia. The Snack Man and Happy Boy experience is a knockout one-two combination, full of thrills and discovery.
“We were really excited just to be named in the Top 50 and now, even more, to have won the Maverick award,” Snack Man owner Cameron Votan says.
“In a way, the Brisbane wine scene is still up and coming and there’s been a few guys that have really pushed the wine bar flag here and we’re coming in behind them. Our intent for Snack Man was to create something uniquely Brisbane, for Brisbane – we’re tucked away off James Street and just off the Valley and the word maverick is very fitting as it is about what we want to create, not necessarily what has come before.”
The People’s Choice, as decided by the public via online voting, was awarded to Geelong’s Union Street Wine. Opened in early 2014 by duo Andy Leigh and Lewis Phiddian, Union Street Wine serves up a selection that pays homage to local winemakers as well as an eclectic mix of international makers, with their wine bar and adjacent store.
“It’s been such a tough year for everyone and hospitality in particular and to named in the Top 50 with venues of such high calibre was enough for us. It’s so great for Geelong too – we love being here, we love the people and we’re so stoked to have won this award,” says Andy.
Acknowledging the hardships that the hospitality industry has faced in 2020, Wineslinger partnered with hospitality relief fund TipJar this year, with Young Gun of Wine donating over $2,500, as well as encouraging others to support TipJar – helping raise over $25,000 – to support those in the industry who need it most.
For the first time, each Wineslinger trophy winner received two immersive wine experiences, one hosted by Mike Aylward at Ocean Eight in Victoria and one hosted by Prue, Stephen and Justine Henschke with Henschke Wines in South Australia to give back to each venue team.
The 2020 Wineslinger Awards are brought together with thanks to partners Cullen Wines, Henschke, Liebherr, Ocean Eight, Studio Round, Tahbilk and Young Gun of Wine.