Drinking Victoria: Mel Gilcrist

Published on 4 January 2022

Photo: Mel Gilcrist of Wine with Meg + Mel.

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

Mel Gilcrist is one half of the duo behind your new favourite wine podcast. In each episode of Wine with Meg + Mel, Gilcrist and her co-host Meg Brodtmann talk their listeners through the world of wine in a fun and frank way, to help you better understand what's inside your next glass. After beginning her wine journey as a brand ambassador based in Canada, Gilcrist moved to Australia to work with Jacob's Creek and other big name producers. Currently, she spends her time working as the marketing and communications manager for Yarra Valley winery Rob Dolan Wines and recording her podcast. When she's not talking wine she likes to flex her sabering skills with a bottle of bubbles.

As far as I’m concerned, the defining place to get a drink in Victoria is at one of the amazing Yarra Valley wineries – we have amazing wineries literally as close as 30 minutes away from the city. I love to head out to the region and learn about the amazing wines directly from the producers (which is always enhanced by a cheese board and a stunning view), but if I’m in the city I go to Punch Lane – their staff never fail to find me an amazing wine for any occasion. 

The best or most important change to the way we drink in Victoria in recent years has been…
I’ve noticed a lot of people going out of their way to discover local drinks. This makes me so happy. We have so many incredible wine regions in Victoria, and people are taking the time to learn about them and support them. Beyond wine, micro-breweries and distilleries are popping up everywhere and are doing so well. Supporting locals is important and we couldn’t be more spoiled with the choices we have here.

When someone hands me a wine list in a restaurant, I get lost in it. But, as much as I love dissecting a good wine list, at the end of the day, I always put the choice in the hands of the expert. I love chatting to the somm, telling them a bit about the group and the wine styles we enjoy. I ask for something people will like, but also something a little different – maybe a variety or style they haven’t tried before. I’m rarely let down too – the quality of wine lists and sommeliers in Melbourne is unreal.

The Victorian spirit I’m loving most right now is the eagerness to help out those affected by lockdowns! The community spirit has been sensational. I’ve been delighted to see people buying meals and drinks from their local hospo venues to help keep them going during this time and spreading the word to others to do the same. At Rob Dolan, we had people coming in to stock up on wine to give to family and friends – simply because they knew the cellar door was closed and it would help us out. It’s been heartwarming.

The last three delicious things I drank were…
We recently did a podcast episode on “the best wine regions you’ve never heard of” – my co-host Meg Brodtmann brought in a 2015 Dveri-Pax Pinot Gris from Slovenia. Knocking down all my preconceptions, it was immensely complex and delicious. Who would have known? I’m also currently on the Picpoul de Pinet train; bright, floral, awesome body and affordable – they’re great wines. And, well, changing the tequila in my Margaritas to mezcal has been a game changer. 

There’s no better value on a wine list or in a bottle-shop in this state than Yea Valley sparkling wine. Yea is just north of the Yarra Valley and is producing the most amazing fruit for sparkling. And because it’s a lesser-known region, it’s way more affordable. Keep your eye out for wines from the region, they’re stunning. 

My favourite place to buy booze is direct from wineries. I save my pennies and go wild whenever I visit a winery. You can taste most things before buying, have access to interesting cellar door exclusives, and learn from the people closest to the product. In terms of a store, I can never go past Blackhearts & Sparrows: they’ve always had such a great selection. 

I’d love to see us planting more alternative varieties, and as an extension of that, I’d love to see more people taking the leap in buying them. People feel very safe buying their regular shiraz or pinot grigio – but there are some seriously cool styles being made in Victoria such as pinot blanc, arneis and savagnin. I’d love to see us pushing ourselves outside our comfort zones.  

My guilty pleasure in the drinks cabinet is Malibu. A Piña Colada can transport me to a tropical island even on the rainiest of days. 

For me, the most inspiring person in the Victorian drinks world is my co-host, Meg Brodtmann. She’s Australia’s first female Master of Wine and is so clever and accomplished but couldn’t be more down to earth. She is incredibly passionate about education, helping women progress in the industry, and driving sustainability. She’s also a bunch of fun to have a wine with. I count myself very lucky to work so closely with her. 

Check out Mel's podcast Wine with Meg + Mel, here: @winewithmegandmel.

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