Drinking Victoria: Hayley McCarthy

Published on 15 December 2021

Photo: Ides' head sommelier Hayley McCarthy

Your guide to what’s in the glass from the people in the trade. 

Hayley McCarthy has turned an obsession with interesting and hard-to-find wines into a full-time job. The Adelaide expat had five years' hospitality experience under her belt before moving to Melbourne, but it’s here that her love for fine dining blossomed, working under people such as Shar Debney (Tipo 00) and Louise Naimo (Ishizuka) at Estelle. After a few years of tasting Grand Cru Burgundy on the clock studying wine, she found herself at the intimate two-hat fine-diner Ides in Collingwood, where she is the head sommelier – commonly lost for breath trying to relay the important information to guests before the food arrives. Here’s what that might sound like. 

When someone hands me a wine list in a restaurant, I order a round of drinks for the table so everyone is entertained while I consider what wine suits the people I’m dining with, how the wines will progress throughout the night, and how they will work with the menu. Lastly – one my friends are probably very sick of – I try to negotiate a budget. Sometimes they’ll even get a sales pitch from me if I decide I “must have” something; I think they lowball me on purpose now.

The last three delicious things I drank were… 
I’m very lucky to be able to drink so many delicious things every day, but I was lucky enough to drink the Andre Beaufort 1996 Grand Cru at Neighbourhood Wine the other day and, woof: truly life changing Champagne. The other two would be Fattoria San Lorenzo “Il San Lorenzo” Verdicchio 2008 (I did not know verdicchio could do that) and a consistent favourite from the Sebastien Riffault wines: the Akmenine 2017. I feel lucky to be able to share that with guests in our match.

As far as I’m concerned, the defining place to get a drink in Victoria is…
This is a really hard one because there’s so many places that either embrace tradition or modernity. France-Soir will always be an important place for me, it has a strong history behind it and an authenticity that can be hard to find in hospitality. I adore the “no bullshit” attitude and the waiter speeding me along to get some food on the table. I often find myself at places like Drinkwell and Public Wine Shop: casual, great food, engagement and passion from all involved parties. I find myself quite easily at home at these places: they represent a part of hospitality I really believe in.

The Victorian spirit I’m loving most right now is…
I don’t drink a lot of spirits really. I drink Martinis – if there’s something local I haven’t tried I will order it and leave the bartender to decide how they think it should be served. Not technically a spirit, but I have been really enjoying the Saison “Fallen Quinces” Vermouth made by Dave Verheul.

There’s no better value on a wine list or in a bottle-shop in this state than…
There are so many excellent wines coming from small producers in Victoria, honestly we are a bit spoiled. At the moment I am really enjoying how 2017 Victorian whites are drinking, just in general, the time in bottle and benefit of a cooler year is showing. In particular the Taturry Estate “Mosselini Vineyard” Chardonnay from Mornington Peninsula, Bowerbird Viognier from Heathcote and the Bobar “Royale” Chardonnay from Yarra Valley.

My favourite place to buy booze is…
I love going to Public Wine Shop and talking to Campbell Burton, whose unshakable enthusiasm brings life to the wines and people around him. Bahama Gold definitely got me into some trouble in lockdown – hard to say no to free delivery of a bottle you are genuinely excited about. Lastly, not Victorian but worth mentioning is P&V Liquor in Newtown, stylistically they are very aligned with my tastes.

I’d love to see us planting/brewing/distilling more…
I have a deep love for Italian red varieties, but my biggest love would have to be nerello mascalese. We don’t get as much here as I would like, so I feel like I am always on the hunt. I thought to myself for so many years, “why are we not planting this in Australia?” I did hear the guys at Chalmers have sourced their first cutting to be planted here in Australia. I am really excited to see how it grows in our climate and what our winemakers will do with it. Nerello for all!

My guilty pleasure in the fridge/drinks cabinet/at the bar is…
I have a ritual of drinking an uncomfortable amount of Mimosas when a wrestling pay-per-view is on, which is very much a “Hayley Time” day. Otherwise, I can't go past a Pineapple Cruiser at the park.

The best or most important change to the way we drink in Victoria in recent years has been…
Over the last couple of years I feel like the general public has gained more respect for the small producers around them and a desire to support them. I think people care more about wine that is real rather than prestigious. People want to hear the story, they want to think of this little man living in a caravan sleeping next to his vines like they are his children, and not manipulating the fruit to a point where it no longer feels real. On a service side, I do think the effect of the pandemic and the large sense of loss the public felt without hospitality has resulted in more respect for the professionals serving them and more engagement at the table.

For me, the most inspiring person in the Victorian drinks world is …
If I had to pick one person it would be Ludo Deloche of Halle Aux Vins, a man who – even when I rock up at his door unannounced while he is rushing around being four people at once – still has time for a chat and an impromptu tasting.. His passion and joy are infectious and his wealth of knowledge outshines most. When I grow up, I want to be Ludo.

Ides Melbourne, 92 Smith St, Collingwood, 0432 365 869, idesmelbourne.com.au, @idesmelbourne

 

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