Rockpool Bar & Grill 2017 Winner


The West Australian Good Food Guide Wine List Of The Year award, presented by McHenry Hohnen Vintners, was, this year, bestowed on Rockpool Bar & Grill, Perth. Rockpool head sommelier Matthew Bell spoke to Hermione Stott about the steakhouse’s wine philosophy, its wine acquisition strategies and why his favourite wine is named after a horse.

Q:  In your opinion, what makes for a perfect wine list?
A: It could be said that there’s no such thing as a perfect wine list, but striving to be perfect, day-by-day, is what it’s all about. Small or large it is all about balance – representing various price points, emerging and familiar varieties or producers, and suitability to the cuisine.  The best lists also have to be dynamic. If you understand the tastes of your customers then you know what to be on the lookout for, to excite them every time they dine.

Q: Rockpool has a lot of money behind it, but is that what’s important when looking at what wines to buy and put on a list?
A: The money that we are able to invest in our wine program is a wonderful luxury, but also an immense responsibility.  It enables us to access some of the rarest and most desirable wines on the planet for our guests to enjoy, but means we must be careful to invest wisely, and be careful to balance our selection process for a mix of drink-now wines and those that will be enjoyed years down the line. It is a great privilege.

Q: How are you feeling about your recent Good Food Guide win?
A: This is a fantastic accolade!  It is a wonderful recognition of the countless hours and many hands that go into the Rockpool Bar & Grill Perth wine program. I head up a team of six sommeliers . . .  they are a group of consummate professionals who are serving the list every day and have the opportunity to constantly grow their knowledge while helping to shape this award-winning wine List.  To excel in the thriving Perth dining scene is an outstanding result. 

Q: What is your desert island drop?
A: I would have to look to Champagne. Pascal Agrapart is making some of the most thrilling wines in the Champagne region.  It would have to be the 2008 Agrapart & Fils ‘Vénus’.  This grower-producer bucks the trends by producing site-specific wines based on careful viticulture.  Pascal farmed this parcel within the La Fosse vineyard in the Grand Cru village of Avize by working the soil by horse as a demonstration of the benefits over machine.  That horse was Vénus. This blanc de blancs has the exhilarating mineral-laden, lacelike acidity, combined with perfectly ripe chardonnay fruit.  If I somehow got bored of the bubbles on my island paradise, I could decant it (highly underrated), and let the mouth-filling texture come to the fore. This is a great wine first and foremost, and just happens to be made in Champagne with bubbles. It’s a little like a great chardonnay, riesling and Champagne rolled into one.  I had the 2010 at my wedding this year, so it would be a bit of connection to home while I’m basking in the sun. Now . . . how soon can I be stranded?

Q: What summer drops do you have coming up that you are excited about?
A: Riesling would be high on my list to drink over summer.  I have a few rare bottles of Veyder-Malberg’s 2015 riesling left, from Wachau in Austria.  The steeply sloped Bruck vineyard, overlooking the village of Viessling, results in a dry riesling of almost electric energy, precise, chiselled and with immense length. It;’s an ultra-cool climate riesling at it’s very best.

I’ve also managed to lay my hands on the very limited release ‘Luxe’ rosé by Spinifex in the Barossa that we’ll be pouring over the summer.  Pete Schell and Magali Gely have been leading lights in producing some of the best modern expressions of Barossian shiraz, grenache and mataro. It has a strong nod to the wines of Bandol, in the south of France.  Based on Mataro (Mourvèdre as the French call it) with grenache and cinsault, it is fragrant and textural with that perfect balance of red fruits and savoury complexity, whilst maintaining a crunchy freshness.

You can’t ignore the fact that it [the winning list] has the best depth and breadth of selection. It is clever, the wine selection is on-point… the wines are not just dropped in to flesh it out. "

Paul McArdle The West Australian Good Food Guide Wine Jurist