WFW spoke to leading sommeliers at The Point Albert Park in Melbourne, Australia, Roberto Lombardo (RL) and Gareth Burnett (GB), alongside restaurant manager Owen Gibbons (OG). The idyllic location on the edge of Albert Park Lake is the perfect setting in this culinary driven city for the excellent Australian cuisine and wine savvy service within, where Lombardo and Burnett team up with head chef Andrew Harmer. The Point draws upon an 18-year history to curate a list filled with Old World classics and contemporary wines, encompassing a number of local wines from Victoria, among other Australian and international labels. It comes as no surprise, then, that The Point attained an esteemed three-star award, the highest rating, in our World’s Best Wine Lists in 2015 and 2016.
We cover inspiring regions, noteworthy wine establishments in Melbourne, trends of 2016 and those anticipated for 2017, and more, in our Q&A.
What is your favorite part about being a sommelier, and working with wine in this way?
GB: Customer interaction and showing them something unexpectedly new.
RL: Guiding the guest through the marvelous world of wine and wowing them by the magic of food and wine pairing.
OG: The never-ending learning process, the joy of discovering new and unique wines, and sharing them with my customers.
Are there any particular wine regions or countries that have inspired you most or most recently?
GB: The Loire Valley for purity and precision, the Jura for its unadulterated expression of terroir, and the Swartland, South Africa.
RL: Piedmont and Burgundy are the regions that inspire me the most, as their history and wines made me fall in love with this beautiful beverage. Nebbiolo and Pinot Noir, which I consider to be the two most aristocratic red grape varietals, are able to express in a glass all their history, terroir and magnificence.
What goes into creating an award-winning wine list?
All: It is an extrusion of the chef’s (head chef Andrew Harmer) and sommelier’s palate, which is in tune with locals.
What are your bottles of choice at the moment?
GB: Pinot Noir.
RL: Gippsland Pinot Noir: Bass Phillip and William Downie, as their wines are so complex and express the true Australian terroir.
OG: Geelong, By Farr [a wine estate located near Melbourne, Victoria], because everyone in the family makes beautiful wine.
When looking for a good wine list in your home city, which restaurants or wine bars do you like to visit?
GB: Embla, Town Mouse, and Coda
RL: European, Prince Wine Store, and Embla
OG: I live in the southeast Saint Kilda area so close to home I like to enjoy a glass at Café Di Stasio, France-Soir, or the Lûmé Bar.
Are there young sommeliers who you believe will go on to achieve great things?
GB: Paul Robineau – young and very passionate.
RL: I've met a bunch of young sommeliers here in Melbourne, with great passion and commitment; I am sure they will get far in the wine world.
OG: Not one in particular at the moment, but I always find great excitement in seeing younger members of the team develop the passion for wine and service.
Who do you believe is the most influential sommelier to have lived?
GB: Ronan Sayburn MS
RL: Luca Gardini
OG: Fred Dame MS
What is your go-to celebratory sparkling wine/Champagne?
GB: Perrier-Jouët Belle Époque
RL: Bellavista Vittorio Moretti Franciacorta
OG: Taittinger Comtes de Champagne
What is the best bottle of wine you’ve ever tasted?
GB: Mark Angeli “La Lune” Vin de France
RL: 1990 Giacomo Conterno Monfortino
OG: I have been fortunate enough to drink so many amazing wines in my career that it would be an injustice to say one of them was “The Best.”
What is the rarest wine you’ve ever tasted?
GB: Château d’Yquem 1918 / Petrus 1961 / Margaux 1945
RL: Haut-Brion 1970 /DRC La Tâche 1990 /Mastroberardino Taurasi Riserva 1982
OG: Château Latour 1964
What wine trends did you see in 2016? Did you discover anything new?
GB: Natural wines / field blends.
RL: Tempranillo and Italian varietals. Being new in Australia and with a European background, I discovered a completely different palate.
OG: Natural wines.
What trends do you anticipate for 2017?
GB: Picpoul de Pinet, plus Albariño and other European aromatic varieties; very well suited to Australia’s warm weather and drinking culture.
RL: South Australian Grenache, to be more precise, McLaren Vale Grenache (or as many people describe it, the Pinot Noir of warm climates). In South Australia it seems that Grenache has found the best climate and soil conditions to grow, making the wines very approachable, with soft tannin, fruity, medium body, which is perfect to pair with food or drink, or on their own, and also a great way to bring new people to the world of wine.
What inspiration do you take from The World of Fine Wine magazine?
GB: The issues that feature prestige cuvée Champagne – a touch!
RL: It’s more education than inspiration.
OG: The stories behind the winemakers.
What do the wine awards mean to you? How has it affected you and your establishment?
All: Curating a wine list worthy of recognition by a quality publication requires utmost professionalism. [It’s] an amazing sign of quality but also responsibility.