The Master of Wine has been appointed inaugural drinks boss at Australia's most-anticipated private wine club – here's what he's loving in the state of Victoria.

Master of Wine Richard Hemming has a CV as full-bodied as a Rutherglen muscat. He’s been in wine since 2001, including 13 years as a freelance wine writer and educator and nearly 10 as a Master of Wine. He first joined 67 Pall Mall, a private members’ club for wine lovers, as a founding member when the London original opened in 2015, and started working with the Singapore team in 2020. So when news broke that 67 Pall Mall was to cross the equator and open shop on Spring Street, naturally, Hemming was tapped for the in-house sommelier gig. 

The opening of a Melbourne branch of 67 Pall Mall is huge news for wine enthusiasts, with the club slated to begin pouring in earnest from mid-2025 at the Paris end of the CBD. In the meantime, here’s Hemming with his take on what’s drinking well in Victoria. 

Looking at the Victorian drinks world from the outside in, I think its key strengths are an open-minded, cosmopolitan approach embracing multiple cultures and influences. This inspires a wide array of wine styles, from home-grown pét-nats to Francophone chardonnay and everything in between. The thriving hospitality scene brings it all alive – not just the sheer variety of restaurants and bars, but through the irrepressible friendliness of the staff.

 The last three delicious Victorian things I drank were…
– Knee-weakeningly good rare muscat from All Saints in Rutherglen, poured from a 15-litre bottle (the only one in existence!). Intensely rich without being overblown, and a true Victorian original.

– Crawford River Riesling 2023 from Henty. Not only because it encapsulates the purity and precision of the grape, but because wine is above all about people, and the winemaker is a beautiful soul that has been a friend for many years.

– Mornington Peninsula Free XPA: flavourful beer at 0 per cent that I discovered over Christmas in Port Melbourne. 

When someone hands me a drinks list, I put on my glasses first, these days. Then I scan the sparkling wine to get an idea of its relative value. Then I ask what the rest of the table would like.

As far as I’m concerned, the defining place to get a drink in Victoria is Merrijig Inn, Port Fairy. Steeped in atmosphere, this is a small and historic corner pub representing everything Victoria does best: outstanding food, a superb wine list and heart-warming service.

There’s no better value on drinks list or in a bottle-shop in this state than …
I have to say 67 Pall Mall Melbourne for wine. The only catch is that it doesn’t open until 2025.

My favourite place to buy booze is Rathdowne Cellars, which combines a truly global outlook with a friendly neighbourhood buzz (and is also run by friends).

I’d love to see Victoria planting more shiraz, because it reflects terroir just as faithfully as pinot noir but without the terrible fail rate. 

My guilty pleasure at the bar is lemon lime and bitters. So good. Although it’s really more of a guilt-free pleasure.

The Victorian spirit I’m loving most right now is Autonomy Amaro. I love drinks that embody the region they come from, especially when it reflects a landscape as distinctive as the Australian bush. 

The most important global trend in wine today is declining consumption, unfortunately, which means that artisanal producers who are dedicated to the true meaning of wine are ever-more deserving of our support.

The thing the rest of the world needs to learn about drinks from this part of the world is the diversity and complexity of Victoria’s drinks world is intrinsic to its appeal. The point is not to find the right answers, but to ask the right questions – and to keep sharing bottles.