After fresh ideas for meals that are healthy but still pack a flavour punch? We've got salads and vegetable-packed bowls to soups and light desserts.
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The maitre d' is your first introduction to a restaurant - they do as much to create a sense of ambience as lighting, tableware and music. And these three professionals are top of the class.
Three sommeliers, three different personalities, all first-rate guides to the lists at their establishments. We present our 2018 finalists: Caitlyn Rees, Gaving Cremming and Patrick White.
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These are the drops we've been drinking this month, from a Victorian shiraz to an apple brandy imported from Normandy.
Numbered from top-bottom and left to right;
1. RUN FOR THE HILLS
2015 Millbrook Viognier, Perth Hills, WA, $35
It's the texture that clinches it for me: a beautiful, creamy richness that slides across the tongue, carrying scents of musk and powdered ginger and honeysuckle. Lovely with rich, spiced Middle Eastern chicken or fish dishes.
2. BLACK SWAN
2014 Corymbia Tempranillo Cabernet, Swan Valley, WA, $35
I'd love to taste this tempranillo-cabernet blend again in 10 or 15 years; right now it's quite a sumptuousyet-earthy, ripe-yet-savoury red, and I reckon some bottle age will bring even more ethereal complexity. Try with roast... goose.
3. GO WEST
2015 Tarrington Chardonnay, Henty, Vic, $45
The rolling farmland of far south-west Victoria is home to some great vineyards such as this one just outside Hamilton: a beautiful amalgam of refreshing citrus notes and honeyed creaminess, complex, multilayered. Should cellar well, too.
4. HISTORY, MAN
Joseph The Fronti, McLaren Vale, SA, $50
The latest release of this remarkable sweet wine is richer and deeper than I remember from previous bottlings: winemaker Joe Grilli blends ancient barrel-aged fortified wines with his own 35-year-old frontignac to startling effect. Wow.
5. NEW HUNTER
2016 Comyns & Co Fiano, Hunter Valley, NSW, $28
A good example of the southern Italian fiano grape from experienced Hunter winemaker Scott Comyns, released under his new label: tangy and crunchy like biting into a nashi pear, then nicely grape-pulpy on the tongue.
6. COOL CALVADOS
Roger Groult 3 Year Old Calvados, Pays D'Auge, Normandy, $68
I recently tasted all the different calvados from import specialists Spirits of France and, for me, this offered the best value: a wonderfully complex apple brandy offering both fresh cider aromas and satisfying barrel-aged characters.
Imported by spiritsoffrance.com.au
2014 Burn Cottage Original Vineyard Pinot Noir, Central Otago, $89
In 2014 Burn Cottage made three pinots, and while I like the sinewy Moonlight Race ($66) and the elegant, floral Valli Vineyard ($89), this is my pick: lots of dark macerated hedgerow fruit wrapped up in velvety tannin. Glorious.
Imported by cellarhand.com.au
8. CLASSIC RESTRAINT
2014 Craiglee Shiraz, Sunbury, Vic, $55
A fittingly brilliant wine to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the replanting of one of Australia's great Victorianera vineyards: intense but reserved silky black fruit, tingly black pepper, fine, firm tannin. Will mature well for 20 years or more.
9. LANGUAGE WARNING
2015 d'Arenberg The Noble Botryotinia Fuckeliana, Semillon Sauvignon Blanc, McLaren Vale, SA, $20
Stop sniggering at the back... it's a perfectly legit botanical name for a certain type of mould, apparently - the kind that infects grapes and produces luscious but balanced and moreish sweet wines like this.
10. BLOOD RED
2015 Tar & Roses Tempranillo, Heathcote, Vic, $23
My word, this is terrific value tempranillo: all the supple black fruit and deeply satisfying, plump-tannin umami savour you could want at a very reasonable price. I have even seen it advertised for less than $18, which is a steal, I reckon.
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