Celebrating 30 years, Australia’s Wine List of the Year Awards continue to turn the spotlight on the country’s most skilful sommeliers and restaurateurs — and the wine and beverage lists they create. Whether you’re after a dazzling array of sparkling or an innovative range of world-class sake, these award-winning venues have been selected by an expert panel of judges that includes five Master Sommeliers and five Masters of Wine. Pouring top drops by the glass, plus sake, beer and cocktails, these are the best places to enjoy a drink around Australia.
Australia’s Wine List of the Year Winner: Cirrus, Barangaroo, NSW1/25
When chef Brent Savage and sommelier Nick Hildebrandt opened Cirrus at Barangaroo in 2016, the 500-strong wine list was good. Seven years later, it’s great. “I guess it has grown over the years,” says Hildebrandt, who now works with sommelier Polly Mackarel to craft an offering that today tips 1200 bottles and about 50 drops by the glass. “We like to have a split between locally made wines and imported wines, plus a balance of price points. We want to have wines that are approachable and affordable.”
This egalitarian attitude is just one of the elements that impressed the judging panel. “There’s plenty of joy and difference on each page of this spectacular, innovative and thrilling list,” says judge Jane Faulkner. “Who else could offer such an extensive mix of French chenin blanc or 17 aligoté wines?”
While special mention was made of the list’s “amazing burgundy selection” and “the champagnes organised into sub-groupings to reflect origin”, Hildebrandt says it’s the chenin blancs and rieslings that really sing. “They go with our food really well,” he says of the seafood-focused menu. “Rieslings are exceptional with our lighter dishes, like oysters and tartares. For richer seafood, like the deep-sea fish or crustaceans, we suggest chenin blanc.”
Cirrus is also the winner of Best Wine List NSW, Australia’s Best City Restaurant and the Judy Hirst Award for the sommeliers responsible for the winning list, Nick Hildebrandt and Polly Mackarel.
ACT Winner: Italian and Sons, Braddon2/25
The classic-with-a-contemporary-spin menu at Canberra institution Italian and Sons always delivers but the real magic happens in the glass. “This is such a wonderful list to pore over,” says judge Mike Bennie. “Lean into the Italian theme: Foradori, COS and Olek Bondonio are irresistible, plus there are stalwarts to entice the uninitiated, such as G.D. Vajra, Produttori del Barbaresco and Ornellaia.”
QLD Winner: Agnes, Fortitude Valley3/25
You’d think the main event at Agnes was the ambitious menu: everything is cooked over a wood fire to bring out the unique flavours of each ingredient. But the food is matched by a wine list that’s designed to complement all those smoky notes. “This is a benchmark wine list that should be the envy of sommeliers and wine selectors nationally,” says judge Bennie.
“It’s a who’s who of producers, styles and vintages that will delight everyone from wine geek to aspirational drinker.”
Agnes is also the winner of Australia’s Best Digestif List
SA Winner: Restaurant Botanic, Adelaide4/25
A meal at Restaurant Botanic is an experience. Set in the tranquil Adelaide Botanic Garden, the fine-diner serves a dégustation of 20 small plates over four hours. As you’d expect, the wine offering is just as much of an event. “This is an exemplary wine list perfectly pitched to the Botanic’s freshly foraged food,” says judge Peter Bourne. “South Australian wines form the core, with the rest of Australia succinctly covered. The champagne list is outstanding, burgundy treated with due respect and a tight selection from across the world completes the enticing offering.”
Restaurant Botanic is also the winner of Australia’s Best Wine List (200 Wines)
Tas Winner: Peppina, Hobart5/25
The Peppina experience is designed to conjure an authentic Italian feast – one made using superb Tassie produce, that is. The wine list walks the same line. “What majesty in a small list,” says judge Andrew Graham. “Peppina splits its focus between Tasmania and Italy, delivering a wonderful sense of identity. The list is extremely strong by the glass and a huge range of price points are covered, too.”
Peppina is also the winner of Australia’s Best Listing of Tasmanian Wines
Vic Winner: Gimlet at Cavendish House, Melbourne6/25
Visiting Gimlet at Cavendish House feels like stepping back in time. The restaurant’s aesthetic is old-world glamour – to match its 1920s building – and its menu spans oysters, steak and lobster. “The wine list follows suit, starting with a cocktails selection that ranges from a novel Hazelnut Martini through to grand celebratory drinks, such as the Lotus Club Sazerac,” says judge Jeni Port. “Australian producers go toe-to-toe with the Europeans as the list delves into new-style skin-contact and oxidative whites plus low-intervention reds.”
WA Winner: Shorehouse, Swanbourne7/25
The team at Shorehouse, a breezy beachside diner with a robust, Mediterranean-style menu, describes its wine list as being “extremely diverse, yet always inclusive; forever priding itself on being uniquely West Australian”. The panel couldn’t agree more: “Shorehouse keeps its position at the top in WA with a list that places the West first, yet fixes it clearly in a world context,” says judge Peter Forrestal.
Best Wine List (50 Wines): Jimmy Wah’s, Burleigh Heads, Queensland8/25
The selection at Jimmy Wah’s is as impressive as it is compact. “This is a smart, idiosyncratic list that sings in complete harmony with modern Vietnamese cuisine,” says judge Jeni Port.
Best Wine List (100 Wines): Rizla, Braddon, ACT9/25
Rizla is an anomaly as it focuses almost exclusively on rieslings. “The listings are superbly chosen to give acid hounds the ultimate experience,” says judge Mike Bennie. The food, served to share, has all been designed to pair perfectly.
Best Country Restaurant Wine List: Settlers Tavern, Margaret River, Western Australia10/25
Located in one of Australia’s best wine regions, it’s no surprise that Settlers Tavern has an enviable cellar. “It offers the ultimate insiders’ guide to local wines,” says judge Peter Forrestal.
Best Club Restaurant Wine List: CHU Restaurant by China Doll, Rooty Hill, NSW11/25
CHU celebrates modern Asian flavours teamed with food-friendly wines. “There’s plenty of depth, with the list hovering around 240 bottles,” says judge Jane Faulkner.
Best Hotel Restaurant Wine List: Woodcut, Barangaroo, NSW12/25
This is a must-visit for oenophiles and gourmands. “There’s an impressive number of cellared wines and a mix of local contemporary labels and international icons,” says judge Toni Paterson MW. And the menu? Everything is prepared using fire, steam, smoke or ice.
Best New Wine List – the Tony Hitchin Award: Olivine Coburg, Victoria13/25
Olivine wine bar calls its novel-like list the Book of Wine. Peruse its pages or wander the cellar yourself. Judges called the list, conceived to accompany small share plates such as caviar, sea urchin and scallop tart, “eccentric and charismatic”.
Best Aperitif List: Bentley Restaurant + Bar, Sydney, NSW14/25
The range of aperitifs on the drinks menu at Bentley Restaurant + Bar impressed the judges. Also of note are the signature cocktails, an abundance of premium spirits and a solid roster of non-alcoholic options.
Best Food and Wine Matching List: Amaru Melbourne, Armadale, Victoria15/25
Expect a wide range of flavours and styles when you visit Amaru Melbourne for its contemporary Australian tasting menus. “The pairings are quirky, which allows them to stand out from the crowd,” says judge Paterson.
Best Champagne List: Quay, The Rocks, NSW16/25
“Quay has a consistently impressive wine list befitting Peter Gilmore's extraordinary food,” says judge Paterson. Of special note: the mix of contemporary and classic labels and the sizable collection of magnums.
Best Sparkling Wine List: Cru Bar + Cellar, Fortitude Valley, Queensland17/25
“What. A. List!” says judge Bennie. “Cru Bar + Cellar seems to have the encyclopedia of wine at its fingertips and 100-plus cuvées on offer.” It’s ideal for toasting a food menu designed to suit Brisbane’s warm climate.
Best Non-alcoholic List: Bells at Killcare, Killcare Heights, NSW18/25
While boutique hotel Bells at Killcare has a stellar wine list, it hasn’t overlooked its non-alcoholic offerings. There’s a comprehensive list of low- and no-proof teas, spirits, cocktails and beers, with a strong focus on natural and sustainably sourced drops.
Best Sake List: Leonie Upstairs, Carlton, Victoria19/25
“Unquestionably one of the finest sake lists in the country,” says judge Andrew Graham of Leonie Upstairs. The range, which is best sampled alongside an omakase suite of 12 temaki sushi, “goes from easy and approachable to truly magnificent”.
Best Wine Bar List – the Fiona Macdonald Award: Where’s Nick, Marrickville, NSW20/25
The drinks list at natural wine bar and bottle shop Where’s Nick favours small-scale and minimal-intervention winemaking. “The non-conformist selection is thrilling in its diversity,” says judge Paterson.
Best List of Wines by the Glass: Rockpool Bar & Grill Perth, Perth, Western Australia21/25
“Rockpool Bar & Grill Perth has a world-class list,” says judge Forrestal. It’s matched by a world-class menu starring seafood and woodfire-grilled meat. “It starts with 65 wines by the glass and there’s a premium selection, which includes wine from each part of the Bordeaux appellation.”
Best Beer List: Mojo’s Kitchen, Bar & Bottleshop, Bunbury, Western Australia22/25
The beer selection at Mojo’s is constantly evolving and brews are matched to the seasonal menus that hero locally sourced produce. Always on offer: brews from the state’s South West, as well as a wide range from Australia and abroad.
Best Cocktail List: Sarino’s, Baulkham Hills, NSW23/25
Modern Italian restaurant Sarino’s has a cocktail menu organised by categories such as Obscure & Modern and Sour, Simple & Effective. “The list is smart and inventive,” says judge Ken Gargett
Australia’s Choice – As Voted by You: Catalina, Rose Bay, NSW24/25
Catalina is a Sydney classic and with good reason – enjoying a crisp glass of white while overlooking the harbour on a sunny afternoon at this seafood fine-diner is next to unbeatable. And there are plenty of outstanding wines to choose from. The list is broken up by varietal and location, with a couple of extra-special groupings, such as the Tyrrell’s, Penfolds and Henschke collections. The by-the-glass selection is also noteworthy: take a trip around the world and choose from a contemporary list or for something a little extra, head to the “fine and rare” options.