Australia’s 2018 Wine List of the Year: Jonah's Whale Beach

Words by Erin Ogilvie

On Monday 31 July 2018 at the Australian Wine List of the Year Awards, Jonah’s Restaurant & Boutique Hotel was awarded Australia’s Wine List of the Year, along with Best Hotel Restaurant Wine List for the third year and Best Wine List in NSW for the second year. These awards are presented by award-winning magazine Gourmet Traveller WINE, and the Australian Liquor Industry’s the drinks Association.

Following their win, we spoke with Head Sommelier Niels Sluiman and his collaborative associate Sommelier Christian Baeppler about the honour.

What makes a good wine list?

NIELS SLUIMAN: A good wine list makes everyone reading it happy. It must be a collection of different colours, flavours, textures, and countries, suitable for every palate. Something really important for me is the representation of many countries, simply because I love diversity mixed in traditionalism. I think it has to be simple, approachable, but also dynamic and unusual!

CHRISTIAN BAEPPLER: A good wine list needs to be enticing and rewarding at the same time. The choice of wine should match the chef’s menu and also the establishment’s price point. Balance has always been the most important factor when designing wine lists. There should be a wine for any occasion, taste and price point. The wine by the glass selection is also of great importance as its gives the reader an insight and taste of the wine list. It should be interesting, dynamic and rewarding.

What makes your list special?

CB: Jonah’s list is a great team accomplishment. Niels is the current Head Sommelier but this list has developed over at least the last 10 years!

NS: Jonah’s owner, Peter Montgomery, gave his trust to the right people. Christian Baeppler organised the strong base of the current wine list, Luke Collard continued to build it, and I refine and twist the list. Our list is a great melting pot of varieties, styles and countries, with strong sections of Champagne, Riesling and Burgundy.

What does it mean to win Wine List of the Year?

NS: Winning one of the biggest wine industry awards of the year is something highly regarded and respected. It is an incredible feeling to know we have made it this far, and makes it even more exciting for the future. There are so many places with great wine programs that it feels like a real honour! We did achieve a major step and winning this prestigious award is encouraging and motivating for all the team.

CB: It means a lot to all of the past and current wine list contributors, and especially to our owner, Peter Montgomery. Without his ongoing support and belief we would have not come this far. As in real life, we haven’t yet reached our destination with our wine program, there are always ways we can improve and we will continue to do so. It makes me very proud and happy that we are being recognized by the industry for having created the best list in the country.

Apart from the wine selection, are there other elements that create a good wine experience?

NS: I always say that the relationship between sommelier and guest is the key to a great experience. One of the major elements is the love of sharing our passion and being able to bring a kind of happiness to our guests.

CB: The harmonious relationship between food and wine, the choice of glassware and decanters, and most importantly the relationship between the guest and Sommelier all contribute to a good wine experience.

How important is food and wine matching to a diner’s experience, and what kind of pairings do you offer at Jonah's?

Both: Wine matching is such an amazing side of our job, every palate is different and we always compare it to art when you are in a museum. Our grilled Scallops, dressed with apricot gel and house-made black pudding, is perfectly complemented with a dry and mineral Riesling (Hutton Vale Farm from Eden Valley).

Our Fillet of Ruby Snapper, with caramelised fennel and orange-mustard seed dressing, is matched perfectly with a Chablis Village Louis Michel, giving that extra savoury dimension to the dish with a balanced citrusy finish.

Finally, our classic Passionfruit Soufflé is just delicious with a locally sourced late harvest Sauvignon Blanc from the Centennial Vineyards!

About Neils and Christian

Head Sommelier Niels Sluiman was raised in the South of France near a city named Albi, which is famous for its food and wine diversity. Having started a career in hospitality, he attended a wine school in Toulouse in 2009.  Since then, he has worked in a number of world-class establishments, including Le Pré Catelan (Paris, 3 Michelin Stars), La Côte St Jacques (Burgundy, 3 Michelin Stars), and Sat Bains Restaurant (Nottingham, 2 Michelin Stars). Neils says working alongside Master Sommelier Laurent Richet in Sat Bains is his most unforgettable experience, both personally and professionally, and intensified his passion and respect for the wine world. He joined Jonah’s in 2017 and became Head Sommelier earlier this year.

His collaborative associate Sommelier Christian Baeppler was born in Germany but travelled the world with his family as a result of his father’s work. Visiting and staying in beautiful hotels cemented his desire to work in hospitality at an early age. His career began at the Kempinski Hotel in Frankfurt, Germany, and has since taken him to the Hotel Schloss Fuschl (Arabella Luxury Sheraton) Salzburg, Austria; The Dorchester Hotel London, UK; The Observatory Hotel (Orient-Express Hotels) Sydney, Australia; Jonah’s Whale Beach, Australia; and the Riedel Wine Bar & Cellar, Bangkok, Thailand. He re-joined the Jonah’s team in late 2016. 

About Jonah’s Restaurant

Jonah’s unspoilt panoramic ocean views are a unique and wonderful offering for visitors, and they are very proud to be one of Australia’s longest standing restaurants having opened their doors in 1929. Every aspect of Jonah’s is focused around their spectacular view, whether you are sipping champagne on the terrace balcony, dining in the restaurant, or lazing on one of their in-room balconies. The restaurant offers contemporary Australian cuisine, perfectly complemented by their extensive wine list offering over 1600 exceptional wines from around the globe. 


Jonah's Restaurant & Boutique Hotel 

69 Bynya Road

Whale Beach, Sydney