Best Small List: Fino, McLaren Vale
Perhaps the award that demands most of its sommelier is that for Best Small Wine List because of the limited resources at their disposal. That’s the challenge that fires up Sharon Romeo at the McLaren Vale restaurant that has the local winemakers talking – David Swain’s Fino. The name is appropriate for the wine list’s emphasis on sherry (all are available by the glass and are especially popular with the winemakers) and for the finesse, subtlety and complexity of Swain’s dishes.
Swain cooked at Adelaide’s Mistress Augustine’s (a long time ago) and had four years at McLaren Vale’s very good Salopian Inn before deciding to do his own thing in the main street of Willunga. Romeo worked at the Botanic Cafe, then managed the Penny’s Hill winery restaurant before accepting the challenge at Fino.
You’ll find some local wines on the list, but not the usual suspects. There’s Yangarra’s roussanne, Noon’s rosé, SC Pannell’s shiraz grenache and an older vintage of Joseph Moda Amarone, plus a smattering of Australian and New Zealand superstars. There are also some exciting newcomers, such as First Drop nebbiolo barbera, Maude pinot noir and Freeman rondinella corvina. Best of all, say the winemakers, there’s a diverse range of European whites, including classic grüner veltliner and albariño, Alsatian riesling, German pinot gris, and less well-known blends from Sicily, Portugal and southern France. It’s an eclectic, thoughtful and beautifully balanced collection.
There’s a synergy between Swain’s dishes and Romeo’s wines. The list may intimidate at first, but a choice of 15 wines by the glass gives customers the chance to nurture their sense of adventure.
Fino, 8 Hill St, Willunga, SA, (08) 8556 4488.
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This article appeared in the August/September 2008 issue of Gourmet Traveller WINE.