Grape expectations soured by unpopularity of local wines
"NSW is probably a difficult place to produce wine.'' … Mr Wong's head sommelier, David Wood, serves diners. Photo: Sahlan Hayes
HIGHER altitudes and greater humidity in NSW deliver fruitier reds and whites with acid freshness. But Sydney's top restaurants are shunning the local drop, saying NSW wines aren't what their customers want.
Less than 4 per cent of wines on lists sold at restaurants such as Rockpool on George and Mr Wong are from NSW vineyards, a survey by Fairfax Media found. The wine lists favoured wines from Victoria and South Australia.
For sommeliers, a pragmatic approach to compiling wine lists was more important than loyalty to the state's winemakers.
David Wood, the head sommelier at Mr Wong, said he created a list of 700 wines with the goal of high product turnover.
"People in NSW are not as interested or parochial about local wines as elsewhere," he said. ''This means we have a battle because wines from NSW won't sell as fast.''
Out of more than 200 Australian wines at Mr Wong, just 22 are from NSW's wine regions, including the Hunter Valley, Orange and Tumbarumba.
"NSW is probably a difficult place to produce wine because of the climate. " he said. "The wines can be too contrived, too ripe, too manufactured.''
Emma Plumridge, the head sommelier at Rockpool on George, said she would not choose location over quality, adding local patrons rarely requested NSW wine. They preferred Victorian wines with Rockpool's modern Australian dishes.
"The more leaner, drier style of chardonnays work well with the food," she said.
"There's also huge demand for bold, full-bodied shiraz out of South Australia."
The survey found that restaurants with wine lists of fewer than 150 options, including Flying Fish in Pyrmont and No. 2 Oak Street in Bellingen, had wine lists with 10 per cent from NSW.
The figures were still a ''disgusting result'' for David Lowe, the president of the NSW Wine Industry Association.
"The variety and quality in NSW has never been better, and the ability to market a whole regional food and wine product has never been easier,'' said Mr Lowe, also a Mudgee winemaker.
The association wants NSW wines to account for 30 per cent of Australian listings at restaurants, reflecting the state's contribution to wine production.
Matthew Dunne, who built wine lists for Aria and Chiswick, believes the prospect for local wine is improving. More than 20 per cent of Chiswick's wine listings are sourced from NSW.
''There's a definite improvement in quality in the past five years,'' he said. ''There are passionate winemakers coming through the Hunter Valley and young, emerging ones in Mudgee strutting their wares.''
Local wines will be promoted at the NSW Wine Festival, starting on February 22. See more details in Spectrum and the full program in Good Food on Tuesday.