A sommelier shares her expert tips on choosing great wine

12th January, 2017

One of the great dishes at Mistelle

Mistelle is a French-inspired wine bar and restaurant located in Sydney’s Double Bay and without a doubt one of its highlights would have to be the unique and extensive wine list and that’s all courtesy of its owner and sommelier Alicia Wadsworth. Wadsworth is a member of the Commanderie du Bordeaux, a graduate of the Gastronomicom Wine School in Languedox, South of France as well as holding her Wine Spirit Education Trust (WSET) levels 2 and 3 and a Diploma from the Sydney Wine Academy so she knows how to identify a seriously good drop. Here, she shares her top tips on choosing wine like an expert.

What inspired your interest in wine?

I grew up in the hospitality industry with a father who loved great wine, particularly red. We would always chat about it and he would teach me to appreciate it. As I got older and into the industry myself, I started trying different wines and found myself challenging my friends to try with me, a lot very reluctantly. The love just kept growing until I decided that rather than try learn myself I would start doing my WSET levels and once I started I loved it so much I continued.

What’s your favourite type of wine?

I love so many different wines for different reasons, I am always trying new producers and different regions making new favourites. At the moment I am loving a good crisp Gruner Veltliner from Austria or a lovely Vouvray from the Loire, Marc Bredif is an easy go-to.

I love my reds too. Red Burgundy and Bordeaux have a special place. I recently tried Chateau de Tertre from Margaux in Bordeaux and was impressed with a lot of their wines. I also love good old classic Aussie reds. Big, bold and punchy such as Torbreck.

Sitting in the sun on my day off a lovely glass of cold rosé is always a winner. Lately I have been drinking Château Vannières from Bandol.

What should people consider when choosing wine?

Be adventurous! If you like a certain grape variety, try it from a different region.

Also what is the occasion? If you are going to sit in the sun and eat oysters and prawns you probably don’t want a big juicy McLaren Vale Shiraz, so you need to pick a style and grape that suits your purpose.

Even if you are not totally into food pairing, you still want something that will heighten the occasion.

If someone wants to bring a bottle of wine to a friend’s house what are some of your tips for choosing one that will please without breaking the budget?

My friends struggle with this all the time as they are worried I won’t like what they bring…. When in doubt bring Champagne. And it is so much more affordable and accessible these days! Otherwise call the host and ask what would suit what they are cooking.

If you were going to buy a wine for a special occasion what type would you choose?

A good red Bordeaux or Burgundy if it’s a dinner, to celebrate I love vintage Champagne like Krug.

What are some of your tips for choosing wine on a restaurant menu?

Ask for the sommelier or someone who knows a little about the list. Know your price range and what style you like. That way it is easy for someone to point you in the right direction. Or if they serve it by the glass ask for a little taste.

Which regions are producing great wines at the moment?

That’s tough. I am a big fan of Margaret River wines, beautiful consistency in vintages. I love the Bordeaux style. I am loving cool climate Shiraz and Cabernet from the Yarra valley, Yarra Yering and Warramate have been doing some great examples. Exciting new wines from the Adelaide Hills region are playing around with Italian varieties which is always entertaining like Nebbiolo and Vermentino.  South Africa is doing some fabulous stuff, particularly the Swartland region. Eben Sadie and Mullineux to name but a few. They are producing some fabulous white and red Rhone style wines.

Mistelle’s owner and sommelier, Alicia Wadsworth

What’s a little known type of wine you wish more people would try?

Mistelle which is a grape juice or slightly fermented wine, which has been fortified by various types of spirit, depending on the region in which it’s made. It can be a lovely and refreshing style, served chilled or on ice as an aperitif, or a heavier, more complex expression, accompanied with a selection of cheeses and desserts.

What are some trends you’re seeing when it comes to wine?

Provenance Rose is trumping everything. Pinot Gris and Grigio also extremely popular. Riesling seems to be getting more and more accepted. All the pushing for all those years is starting to pay off.

What is the best way to store wine?

In a Vintec cabinet or similar brand.

What’s the key to selecting good wine glasses?

Zalto glasses are amazing! I pretty much drink most things from these at the moment. You really only need a really good quality red and white standard glass.

What type of wine should every person always have on hand at home?

Champagne, Chablis and a good cool climate Shiraz.

What are some common mistakes people make when it comes to wine?

Serve it too warm or too cold, put ice in it.

If you were to compile the ideal selection of foods to graze on whilst enjoying a glass of wine what would it entail?

I am loving gorgonzola with a lovely glass of Chenin Blanc or steak tartare and Blanc de Blanc Champagne.

What are some of your tips when it comes to serving wine at home during a gathering?

I like to have a bit of a theme to my food and wine. Whether it be Italian food matched with Italian varietals, Old world vs New World like Australia vs France. I also like to open things that people may not have had before to try and test [guests’] boundaries. It gets the conversation going.

Complete this sentence. A good wine is…. to be drunk and enjoyed with your nearest and dearest.


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