Drinking Victoria: Shashi Singh

Published on 7 October 2021

Photo: Shashi Singh of Avani Wines

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

Shashi Singh makes some of the most exciting and vibrant wines to come out of the Mornington Peninsula. Chemistry is her professional background but she went on to study viticulture and oenology, and had the good fortune to work with one of Australia’s most celebrated producers of pinot noir, Phillip Jones, at Bass Phillip in Gippsland. She worked part-time with Jones for eight years before she and her husband Devendra Singh established Avani in 2009 in Red Hill. Through a minimal intervention approach, she hopes to create wines that best express the terroir of their site and the growing season. Her estate vineyard is planted exclusively with shiraz and farmed following organic and biodynamic principles. Singh also works with a few local growers to make pinot noir, chardonnay, and pinot gris under her more experimental label, Amrit. 

Since visiting the winery is still a few weeks away due to restrictions, they’re currently putting together food and wine packs in collaboration with Enter Via Laundry, delivered straight to your door and available through their website.

The last three delicious things I drank were… We celebrated the recent birth of our beautiful granddaughter with a bottle of Olivier Horiot Métisse Blancs et Noirs – it was zesty, with great texture, and really refreshing. During lockdown we have been spoiling ourselves after a long day pruning in the vineyard and recently opened a bottle of 2015 Bass Phillip Premium pinot noir and a 2000 Craiglee shiraz. The Bass Phillip had such great intensity, complexity and length – a special wine. The Craiglee was a 20-year-old wine with great freshness, red fruits, and texture.

As far as I’m concerned, the defining place to get a drink in Victoria is… We’re really blessed to have such a great diversity of venues in Melbourne – from fine dining restaurants like Vue de Monde and Aru to local bistros and wine bars like Poodle, Bistro Elba, and Hope St Radio – in all honesty, there are too many to name and they all contribute to what makes drinking in Victoria so world class.

When someone hands me a wine list in a restaurant, I often skip directly to the Champagne and sparkling section – I love my sparkling! I also love to be guided by the sommelier about any new and interesting wines they’re excited about; it’s the best way to discover new things outside your orbit. 

The Victorian spirit I’m loving most right now is… It’s quite rare for me to drink spirits, but I have enjoyed the dry vermouth from Maidenii. I love their use of native botanicals. 

There’s no better value on a wine list or in a bottle shop in this state than Moondarra Studebaker pinot noir, a biodynamic pinot that’s balanced, with a long finish. With a blue-fruit profile at its core, it’s quintessential Gippsland. 

My favourite place to buy booze is… Our go-to during lockdown has been the importers Halle aux Vins – Ludovic Deloche and Helene Laffitte have a really great selection of classic styles as well as producers who push the boundaries. 

I’d love to see us planting/brewing/distilling more shiraz on the Mornington Peninsula. Although this region has historically been predominantly pinot and chardonnay country, there’s such great potential in the mid-to lower-elevations of the Peninsula for shiraz. The Australian expression of cool-climate shiraz or syrah has an elegance and drinkability which is so appealing to me. 

My guilty pleasure in the fridge/drinks cabinet/at the bar isa Hepburn organic lemonade. Nothing more refreshing after working in the vineyard. 

The best or most important change to the way we drink in Victoria in recent years has been people being more interested and informed about what they’re drinking – which is fantastic. There’s a focus on understanding farming and winemaking – in particular the importance of minimal intervention and sustainable farming practices. Also, they’re eager to try different things and step outside their comfort zones, which encourages us as winemakers to keep pushing the boundaries and experimenting with new techniques. This is what makes winemaking so engaging and exciting.

For me, the most inspiring person in the Victorian drinks world isPhillip Jones. He established Bass Phillip wines in Gippsland in the late 1970s, which many of you would know as a producer of one of the important pinot noirs of Australia. He was a pioneer in so many ways both in the vineyard and in the winery - and his encyclopedic knowledge of wine is second to none. Phillip taught us about the importance of understanding your site, of sound viticultural practices, and being able to push the boundaries in the winery. Without his mentorship and guidance during my formative years, we wouldn't be making the wines we are today at Avani.

Avani Wines, 98 Stanleys Rd, Red Hill South, avanisyrah.com.au, @avaniwines


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