Q & A with Head Sommelier of Bennelong, Seamus Brandt
Seamus Brandt is head sommelier at Bennelong. Set under the sails of Sydney’s iconic Opera House overlooking the sparkling Sydney Harbour, and the recipient of countless culinary awards, Bennelong is undoubtedly one of Australia’s most magnificent restaurants. We chat with Seamus, who in January 2019, assumed the role as head sommelier and is currently progressing through the Court of Master Sommeliers (CMS) qualifications. He’s already received CMS Certification combined with the Wine Spirits & Education Trust Level 3 certification.
WHAT MAKES YOU PASSIONATE ABOUT WINE AND BEING A SOMMELIER?
Overall, I have a passion for good hospitality. Wine has ultimately been the best way to deliver that. As a sommelier, I get to be part of the joy great food paired with great wine can bring to people.
WHAT ARE YOUR MOST MEMORABLE CAREER HIGHLIGHTS SO FAR?
Working with the 4000+ wine list at Rockpool Bar and Grill, Sydney remains the highlight. The experience gained from the wines I got to taste and sell there is invaluable, the kind of wines most people only read about!
IS THE SYDNEY DINING SCENE ONE OF YOUR FAVOURITES TO WORK IN?
In truth, it’s the only dining scene I have worked in, but it is exciting! The way dining scenes from different cities in Australia are collaborating and sharing ideas is great. For wine specifically, more young people are drinking wine, more young people are making wine and more young people want to become a somm. There has never been a better time to be working in the Australian wine scene than right now.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHER ASPIRING SOMMELIERS IN THE WINE INDUSTRY?
Passion and drive will get you there, but knowledge is the key to all success.
WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN FIVE YEARS’ TIME?
In five years, I’d like to have completed my formal studies through the Court of Master Sommeliers and I’d like to be in a beverage director type role across several venues.
WHAT’S THE BEST PART ABOUT BEING A SOMMELIER AND WORKING AT BENNELONG RESTAURANT?
The best thing about working at Bennelong is that I work inside Australia’s most iconic building. It must be Australia’s most beautiful dining room! The presence you feel being in the space is indescribable.
WHAT SETS BENNELONG APART FROM OTHER FINE DINING ESTABLISHMENTS YOU’VE WORKED AT?
An unparalleled drive for excellence in all facets of hospitality, coupled with an incredible environment that supports and nurtures growth.
HOW DO YOU DECIDE WHICH WINES TO INCLUDE ON BENNELONG’S WINE LIST?
Bennelong’s wine list is not huge, so making each wine represented count is important. Correctness, varietal character, ethical practices etc are certainly things that I consider, but at the end of the day, a wine with great personality, that commands your attention and is delicious to drink is key.
IF YOU HAD TO PICK A FAVOURITE WINE ON THE LIST, WHICH ONE WOULD IT BE AND WHY?
The 1990 Moss Wood Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon would have to be one of my favourite wines on the list right now. Consistently great at any age, so I imagine this will be no different.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE WINE VARIETAL AND WINE?
European Riesling for whites and French Syrah for reds.
WHAT’S YOUR ULTIMATE WINE AND FOOD MATCH?
Pork and Beaujolais – classic, delicious!
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE…
Bennelong menu item: Grilled Moreton Bay bug, lemon emulsion, brown butter, lemon jam
White wine: 2006 Crawford River, Riesling, Henty, Victoria
Red wine: 2005 Clonakilla, Shiraz Viognier, Murrumbateman, New South Wales
Sparkling wine: 2004 Arras EJ Carr, Late Disgorged, Sparkling, Tasmania
Australian holiday destination: Brunswick Heads, New South Wales