Restaurant Awards

Sommelier of the Year 2019: the finalists

Enthusiasm. Deep wells of knowledge. An innate ability to read diners' needs. Our Sommelier of the Year finalists in the 2019 Restaurant Awards have all these qualities, and more.

Emma Farrelly, sommelier at State Buildings, WA is one of our finalists for Sommelier of the Year 2019.
Emma Farrelly, State Buildings, WA

EMMA FARRELLY, STATE BUILDINGS, PERTH, WA

Managing a single venue's wine program is hard enough. Keeping tabs on four different lists? That takes know-how and a crystal-clear idea of both restaurant and diner. Emma Farrelly, director of wine for the State Buildings, has no shortage of either skill. Whether she's hunting big-ticket bottles for rooftop fine-diner Wildflower or choosing Italian bottlings for in-house trattoria, Post, Farrelly nails the brief every time. Smart buying choices aside, she has also brought a relaxed approach to the service side of things: catch her with pals celebrating the best of small-scale Australian winemaking at Petition, the building's relaxed enoteca.

In short: Variety is the spice of wine.

NED BROOKS, PAPER BIRD, SYDNEY, NSW

Ned Brooks
Ned Brooks

Never mind that he's a co-owner and manager, and knows the pan-Asian menu inside out: Ned Brooks is never happier than talking drinks. He's also trodden the boards enough in his time at Moon Park and MoVida to know when his customers just want to get wet – and get wet fast – in which case, the chilled Korean tinnies or dry DOC Lambrusco will fall on the table like rain. But if you want to get into the subtleties of whether Canberra-region fiano, Tasmanian skin-contact pinot gris or Languedoc mauzac jaune is the most apt match for a kimchi and Emmenthal toastie or green tomatoes with dashi cream, Brooks brings all the smarts and none of the puffery.

In short: The drinking person's sage somm.

JANE LOPES, ATTICA, MELBOURNE, VIC

Jane Lopes
Jane Lopes

Jane Lopes plans to create one of the greatest Victorian wine lists in the world at Attica. Not that she's eschewing the Old World entirely but the California-born sommelier, recruited to Attica from New York's Eleven Madison Park, is bringing an expert's focus and an outsider's excitement to the locally produced stuff that's both interesting and refreshing. The fresh-eyes approach is one thing but it's also Lopes' communication skills and her enthusiasm for her list that works for us. Add the innovative approach she takes to serving wine – she offers some sparkling wines with or without lees and others that she has decanted hours before service – and it seems Ben Shewry has found a great match for his food.

In short: Mixing it up with the locals.

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