Occupation: head sommelier
Awards: 2017 HOSTplus Hospitality Scholarship winner, 2017 The Weekend Australian Magazine Hottest New Restaurant, 2018 Gourmet Traveller Restaurant Awards Sommelier of the Year and Best New Restaurant
When did you first know that working with wine was going to be your career?
I was actually on a gap year- I had just graduated from university in Perth and was planning on going back to complete my honours. My elder sister had already moved to Sydney and convinced me to come and visit. Matt Swieboda was a friend of hers and she hooked me up with a job as the host of his newly opened wine bar- Love, Tilly Devine. In less than a year there I had completely fallen in love with wine. I found myself at a cross road- where I came from in a small town in WA hospitality is not really seen as a career and I was really concerned with what my parents would think- but I decided to give it a go anyway and I’m so glad I did!
What prompted you to apply for the scholarship?
Frank Roberts- the Director of Food and Beverage for Merivale sent me the link to apply a couple of days before the due date, I actually didn’t know about the scholarship until then! The prize was obviously an amazing draw card as well!
What does sustainable mean to you from a wine point of view?
Mostly I look for the farming method- organic and biodynamic farming is the most sustainable because they promote healthy soils and biodiversity in the vineyard, but it’s not always economically viable in all wine regions where there’s a lot of disease pressure generally due to humidity. In these regions, sustainable farming would mean only using synthetic sprays when necessary not as a precautionary method.
Tell us about your Women in Wine events that you run?
Women’s Wine Society was formed in 2012 for females in the wine industry in Sydney. It was born out of an idea that I found I shared with a few of my peers that as women we weren’t supporting one another enough and that together we could have more of an impact. For the first year, it was quite educational- we would meet together once a month and run themed wine tastings- whether by a varietal, region or style. Each month in was a different member’s responsibility to organise (there were around 30 members on the mailing list). It was a great way to share knowledge and network with one another but it wasn’t long before we all became good friends. In the second year, it took a more social direction and we would instead meet every month for a wine lunch at a local restaurant where everyone would contribute a bottle. I created a Facebook page for us to share ideas, achievements and support one another. Since 2014 it has been far less structured but we still get together about 4 times per year.
Your scholarship prize is an overseas trip to three countries to work in three dream places...what's your plan, where do you want to go?
Well, I still have a couple of people to run it past but my ideas at the moment are: making cider and calvados with Eric Bordelet in Normandy; working at Geranium restaurant in Copenhagen- their non-alcoholic program is by all accounts amazing, and Blue Hill at Stone Barns in New York State.
You can follow Caitlyn on Instagram @caitlyn_rees