This year has taught us many things. One in particular, is how important the hospitality industry is to the Australian way of life. During lockdown, many yearned to be able to get out and experience fine food and wine again. To have such a simple ritual taken away from us has gifted us a new perception and outlook toward supporting small, local producers doing interesting and innovative things.
Since reopening for service, it’s no surprise to hear that Paulett Wines in Clare Valley have been at capacity nearly every day. Their offering ticks every box that consumers want out of their dining service – meticulously prepared food, award-winning wines, stunning views, stellar service, environmental considerations and a homely, welcoming atmosphere.
A Paulett wine tasting now offers a wine flight matched with a canapé prepared by Head Chef Thomas Erkelenz, who at the young age of 25 has returned to his home region to develop the Paulett food experience. What’s more, customers can choose their wines with matched food using Australian native ingredients. To top it off, the experience is served on the deck overlooking Polish Hill River. This isn’t a one-size-fits-all tasting experience, it is customised to each customer.
Native Australian ingredients are considered across the whole business. With an established Indigenous Australian Bush Food Garden, Paulett Wines have set aside 2,500 square metres featuring over 80 species and 1,000 plants. Besides being a playground for foraging ingredients for the kitchen, the space has become a valuable habitat for native wildlife. The motivation to plant the garden was to improve the biodiversity of the area, as there’s no denying that vineyard rows come at a cost to native vegetation. Guests are encouraged to wander through the garden and make a genuine connection between plate and the earth it came from.
With the focus on local and native ingredients the menu at Paulett is ever changing. It’s a philosophy to offer the best dish possible from whatever can be found as close to the kitchen as possible. While this leads to a ‘less is more’ attitude in the kitchen, it doesn’t come at a cost to flavour, with the menu being presented in a way that exemplifies modern Australian. The food is created to complement the wine and with the experiences working together, the goal is to allow both to shine equally.
It’s hard to keep Paulett a secret. In addition to the Best of Wine Tourism Award for Wine Tourism Restaurant, Paulett has won the TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice placing them in the top 10 percent of restaurants in the world (not Clare Valley, not the state, the world). This secret won’t last, especially once tourism starts to open back up.
For the moment, however, locals can be spoiled by a food and wine experience that is world-class, yet humble in its approach. Executed with care for the customer and environment in equal measure, Paulett may just be the definition of ‘modern Australian’.
Story written by 2020 Wine Media Cadet, Lachlan Aird