Gourmet Traveller Wine

Australian Wine List of the Year & Best Victorian Wine List

Thank goodness, Stacey-Lee Edwards has won the Judy Hint Award. Until now she has been languishing as sommelier and beverage director in deepest Daylesford at the sublime spa, sophisticated hotel and stunning restaurant that is Lake House: the black sheep among her Melbourne University friends, all of whom now sport PhDs.

Like so many in the industry, Edwards had another life. She was a science student who gained an honours degree and worked two science jobs before deciding she wanted a life in wine. She had worked at La Luna Bistro while studying so she had some insight.

Edwards spent almost two years (from 2004) at Taxi as sommelier and sake sommelier, learning a great deal in the course of the latter job. This was followed by a year as assistant sommelier to David Lawler at Rockpool Bar & Grill, Melbourne and a brief spell at Punch Lane Wine Bar before taking off for the brighter lights of London. A short spell at the Pantechnicon Rooms as sommelier was followed by more than three years at London\'s iconic River Cafe as head sommelier for most of that time. On her return to Australia she worked at Melbourne\'s short-lived Virginia Plain before moving to Lake House early in 2013.

Under its previous sommelier, the high-profile Tom Hogan, Lake House had an outstanding list winning Best Country List in 2013 and Best Regional List in 2012. To what extent is this Edwards list? My fellow judge and colleague, Toni Paterson MW did the analysis. \"While she has inherited an amazing list, there have already been noticeable, valid improvements,\" Paterson explains. \"It’s like she has come in and put finishing touches everywhere. The presentation is more friendly, the formatting better and the layout has been tweaked. The concept of regionality has been improved upon. The local craft and regional beer selection has been expanded. Also local aperitifs. More small-batch gin from micro-distilleries -including local Australian producers - plus local vodka, Tequila and quality single malts. At the other end, we see her experience with Italian wines creeping in - there is now a long list of Amari. Fortifieds by the glass have been improved. The sweet wines are better. Local cab francs have been added. She has given malbec a deserving category of its own. There are now more Rhone reds. The Italian red selection has been refined. The orange wines have become amber. The Riesling options have been improved upon.
It\'s her list. No question.

To be blunt, most statements of philosophy on wine lists are a trial. Not so at Lake House: Edwards\' introduction to the wines is refreshing and carefully crafted - a strong and believable statement.

Although the wine list is extensive, it should be remembered that Lake House is a family business with a 30-year history in country Victoria. Its success shows what perseverance, hard work and talent can achieve even with relatively modest resources.

The list celebrates nearby wine regions by displaying them in an international context. There\'s a significant listing of local bubblies, Riesling chardonnay, pinot noir and Shiraz alongside fine examples from the rest of Australia and overseas. The Champagne list is revealing. The great names are there (Salon, Pol, Cristal, Dom) but also cutting-edge growers, and organic and biodynamic producers.

Surprisingly, given its size, it\'s a tight list with each wine justifying its place. The range of varieties is extensive (from assyrtiko to verdicchio; aglianico to xinomavro). While it\'s a relatively youthful list, there are more than enough mature wines.

The Wolf-Tasker family and Edwards deserve great credit for producing this exemplary wine list. PETER FORRESTAL

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