With choice of convivial open bar, in-suite bar and walk-in cellar, guests at Southern Ocean Lodge can easily help themselves to their choice of wine, beer or fix themselves a cocktail. The staff are more than happy to help too!

With a commitment to local produce, the lodge showcases the best of South Australian wines (and beers!) from the various wine-producing regions around the state, including from local wineries on Kangaroo Island. Matched wines are served with lunch and dinner, and if guests prefer to choose their own, they can explore the walk-in cellar and choose a bottle to take to the table.

Southern Ocean Lodge Manager John Hird has the enviable task of choosing wines for the walk-in cellar, so the selection is really a creation of John’s favourite picks from around the state. The wines in the cellar are often available only at the wineries’ cellar doors, so guests are really offered a taste of Southern Australia’s most interesting wines, often from smaller vineyards.

Here John explains his approach to choosing (and drinking!) wine, how he came to appreciate some of the world’s best drops, and above all the importance of drinkability!

How did your love for wine originate?

My love of wine originated from my father who imported wine from Bordeaux to the UK. I don’t think he sold much of it, we drank most of it! Later while spending 17 years living in Switzerland, I was able to travel to almost any wine region in France, Italy, Germany and Austria.

As an aspiring hotelier, we would list and sell amazing cellared wines (old Burgundies, Bordeaux, Super-Tuscans, Barolos etc) which I could ill afford on my salary.

I had to find a way to taste these fine drops: all these wines were decanted for guests at the table, they were old wines, and many would have quite a bit of sediment. At the end of the evening I would collect these bottles and set to work tasting – but how to remove the sediment?

I purchased a small centrifuge (a device for separating solids from liquids), a pipette (a small tube to collect the liquid) and a fine Riedl Crystal wine glass. Then by filling one test tube in the centrifuge with wine and the other test tube with an equal amount of water, I would centrifuge the sediment in the wine to the bottom of the test tube, and then carefully extract the wine into my glass using the pipette.

This way I got to taste the finer vintages of Chateaus such as Petrus, Latour, Cheval Blanc, Brane-Cantenac and Talbot. I also developed a great love for fine Pinot, Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, as well as the Rhone varietals such as Syrah and Grenache. I would take any and every opportunity to sample wines; not because I wanted to become a sommelier, I just love wine!

My first visit to Australia in 1988 really opened my eyes to how excellent wine didn’t need to be expensive. I remember visiting my uncle in Brisbane and drinking “Aussie Champagne” (before the Aussies were told they couldn’t call it Champagne) and it was darned good! A premium bottle of wine at that time only cost about $20 in a bottle shop – and at that price no wonder I developed a taste for the quintessential Australian red blend Cabernet-Shiraz.  Since those early days I have enjoyed wines from around the world and while some will disagree, I believe it’s not about price, brand or trend; it’s simply about drinkability!