“There’s a lot about the wine industry I don’t like,” says Xavier Vigier, the Frenchborn head sommelier of the restaurant at Ten Minutes by Tractor winery, the winner of Australia's Wine List of the Year 2021, about 75 minutes south of Melbourne. “People talk about ‘fine wines’ and they say they should only be for this type of person, not that type of person.” He pauses. “No,” he says vigorously. “I want the best wines to be available to as many people as possible, no matter how much they have to spend.”
To this end, Vigier has created a list that sings with variety, humility and, above all, accessibility. There are more than 95 wines by the glass so visitors to this fine-diner can try a spectacular vintage in a small pour – from a Raveneau chablis to a Corzano e Paterno trebbiano from Tuscany – without having to splash out three or four figures for a whole bottle. He’s also designed several food matching tiers; some guests might want five courses matched with Ten Minutes by Tractor own-label wines, others a budget-bedamned eight-course Once in a Lifetime pairing featuring serious extravagances like Henschke’s Hill of Grace. “I want to cater to everyone’s needs and expectations, for people who want to spend a lot or people who don’t want to break the bank.”
Vigier’s generosity of spirit, his overarching desire to bring good wine to everyone, fits neatly into the broader philosophy of Ten Minutes by Tractor, which sits in the hills of the bucolic Mornington Peninsula and was rebuilt in 2019 after a devastating fire the year before. As a winery restaurant it would be easy for owner Martin Spedding to bulk out the entire list with his own wines but that’s simply not how things are done here. The list, which judge Jeni Port describes as a “love letter to wine if ever there was one”, includes a chorus of new, old, classic and creative wines from all over the Mornington Peninsula, Australia and the globe.
That’s how Spedding rolls. “I have a very strong view that the restaurant should be a place where people can explore wines from everywhere,” he says. “It gives our wines context and we have the confidence to sit them next to the great wines from all over the world.” On a first visit, a guest may stick to the winery’s own 10X or Estate vintages but when they return, their palates are ready to travel.
The food, of course, is part of the journey. Chef Adam Sanderson’s menu borrows from international cuisines, while his ingredients stay hyper-local (he forages for wild samphire and saltbush and the eatery has its own gardens filled with vegetables and edible flowers). The setting is tranquil – soft grey furnishings accented with brass and marble – but the eye is also encouraged to wander. Floor-toceiling windows draw diners’ attention to the vast rows of vines that surround the converted 1930s building.
For Vigier, the experience of Ten Minutes by Tractor isn’t even really about the dining or the wine or the views, at least not at its heart. A great restaurant and great wine, he says, are about people. “When you serve people, you have to love people, that’s what hospitality is. We’ll always be approachable, friendly and professional. But we’re also going to give people an experience that blows their socks off.”
Ten Minutes by Tractor is also the winner of Best Country Restaurant Wine List, Best Wine List Victoria and the Judy Hirst Award for the sommelier responsible for the winning list – Xavier Vigier.