Zoe Brunton talks Lil Sis wine menu and hospitality career

Solotel has opened Lil Sis, a mini-wine bar and shop found next door to the recently reopened Abercrombie Hotel.

The venue features laid-back dining options, such as Heinz Spaghetti jaffles, and a wide range of charcuterie and cheese, alongside a wine shop on the ground floor.

There’s little doubt, however, that it’s the wine menu that’s the star attraction here – carefully curated by hospitality veteran and Head Sommelier, Zoe Brunton.

Zoe spoke to Bars & Clubs about her life in the industry, and her predicted trends for wine in hospitality over the next year.

“I’ve worked in hospitality since I was 14, starting out as a barista in cafes then becoming a bartender in my early 20s,” Zoe says.

And the fascination with wine is a long held one, as Zoe explains.

“I was always interested in wine, but it wasn’t until I moved closer to the city and started working in restaurants that I was able to get really stuck into it.

“I enrolled into a couple of wine courses and the restaurant I was bar tending at had an opening on the wine team, which I jumped at. From there, I was just hooked and have been lucky enough to work with some pretty great wine programs over the years.”

Lil Sis is a venue with one such program, and Zoe explains how she wanted to create a wine offering that would entice and excite guests.

“I wanted the wine list to be diverse, interesting and above all else, have wines that are engaging and worth talking about.

“We also wanted to have a massive and ever-changing by-the-glass selection for people to come and explore new and exciting wines… I love creating and facilitating a fun and inclusive environment for people to come hang out and enjoy tasty food and wine.”

She provided additional detail in a press statement.

“The idea behind Lil Sis is to showcase and share producers and wine regions we are excited about from all over the world. Some may be familiar, and some we believe you should get to know.”

“We focus on producers that are organic, biodynamic and focus on sustainability as a whole. Winemakers that are passionate of their terroir and make wine that speak of their place,” Zoe explained.”

And Zoe told Bars & Clubs that this focus on environmentally responsible wines echoes her wider beliefs about hospitality as a whole, describing sustainability in the industry as “critical.”

“Sustainability needs to be across the board, that includes sustainability not just within the production line, but the people who work within the production line.

“Consumers are becoming more conscious than ever before of where their money goes and want to spend in line with their values, myself included,” she says.

Moreover, the decision to focus on lesser-known producers, varietal and regions seems to reflect something of the Sommelier’s own personal choices too, as she explains when sketching her current favourite wines – selecting a perhaps overlooked style from a well-known region.

“I am loving white Rhone Valley blends – anything with Marsanne, Rousanne, Viognier, Grenache Blanc, Clairrette,” she says.

“The blend will change from producer to producer but generally they always have beautiful white florals and honeysuckle on the nose, on the palate more stonefruit and an oily texture.”

Finally, we asked Zoe to do the impossible and choose just one desert island wine from the Lil Sis menu.

“That is a tough!” Zoe says.

“It would have to be the Azul y Garanza ‘Salvaje’ Grenache Blanc. A project by three winemakers based in Navarra, Spain. It’s fermented on skins for five days and aged in amphora for six months and tastes of complex citrus, apricot, hits of spice and almonds.”

“It is incredibly balanced and offers good complexity – definitely becoming a staff favourite.”

Images by Steven Woodburn

Lil Sis is located inside the Abercrombie Hotel, with a door on Abercrombie Street in Chippendale, Sydney. The venue is open from 4pm to 2am Monday-Thursday, and from midday to 3am Friday-Sunday.

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