13 February 2024

How does Canberra shape up from a sommelier's perspective?

| Morgan Kenyon
Fritz Wambeek

Restaurant manager and sommelier Fritz Wambeek has dedicated himself to a career in the fine dining industry since he was 19-years-old. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

In the world of oenology, the study of wines and winemaking, a sommelier reigns supreme.

‘Sommelier’ might be a difficult vocation to pronounce (suh-meh-lee-ay), but it’s even harder to master. Often years of self study builds an in-depth knowledge of wine variations around the globe before even attempting professional certification, and thanks to ever-changing science, trends and insights, the learning curve never really plateaus.

Canberra restaurant manager and sommelier Fritz Wambeek has dedicated himself to a career in the fine dining industry since he was 19-years-old. After graduating high school, he began his training with world-famous Hilton Hotels.

“I am originally from Sri Lanka, where I started my work in fine dining with Hilton Colombo,” Fritz says.

“I have also been lucky to work with Fairmont Hotels & Resorts and other prestigious hospitality destinations in the Middle East.”

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Currently showing his expertise as sommelier at Waters Edge restaurant on the lakeside in Parkes, Fritz regularly visits vineyards, wineries and cellar doors across the ACT region to stay abreast of Canberra’s changing tastes.

“Canberra is still quite a young region compared to areas in South Australia and Victoria for example, but our local producers have a lot of skill,” he says.

“Varietal characters are beautifully expressed in cool climate wines. Canberra brings light, bright and fresh wines, with rich fruity flavours and crisp acidity. Being more subtle and medium-bodied, they work well with a wide range of foods.

“Some of my favourite local wineries to visit are Eden Road Wines and Clonakilla.”

Roasted meat

Fritz has been known to enjoy a zesty Sauvignon Blanc with seafood and, when abroad, a bold Bordeaux red sipped alongside roasted meat. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

When it comes to pairing stronger, bolder wines than those made locally, Fritz says there’s a fine balance between complementary and overpowering. When done right though, a wine pairing can elevate any dish.

“Red meats and pasta dishes are the go to for many restaurants, but lighter meats like chicken, pork and duck can be just as good a pairing,” he says.

“For example, our Hawkesbury duck at Water’s Edge pairs very well with the Cicada Cherry Nose Pinot Noir from Marlborough, New Zealand. It has a hint of sweetness, which balances the rich gaminess of the duck.

“Likewise the beef fillet goes beautifully with the Sergi Estate Seductive Shiraz, from Adelaide Plains in South Australia. It has lots of peppery notes, which accompany the meat without heavy sauces that can mask important flavours.”

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Fritz’s favourite part of Canberra’s fine dining scene is how open patrons are to complex flavours, eccentric pairings and a fun, explorative experience.

“When it comes to fine dining, it’s all about cuisine and concepts,” he says.

“Big cities like Sydney and Melbourne have more variety, but I see Canberra growing fast. There are innovative modern Australian dishes with a French twist and lots of Japanese.

“Seeing local chefs with amazing talent coming up with such interesting concepts, I think Canberra will be a foodie destination that suits all palates.”

Water’s Edge Restaurant is located at Commonwealth Place, 40 Parkes Place, Parkes. Open for lunch and dinner from Wednesday to Sunday. Reservations essential. Follow Water’s Edge on Facebook or Instagram and visit their website to book.

Original Article published by Morgan Kenyon on Riotact.


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