Visit the Royal Mail Hotel for the ultimate wine and food experience

By J'aime Cardillo

18 May, 2024

The Royal Mail Hotel in Victoria's Dunkeld has solidified itself as a food and wine must-visit destination. We speak to the team behind the award-winning cellar that is stacked with close to 40,000 bottles.

Tucked away in the foothills of the Grampians, you'll find the town of Dunkeld. It's about three hours out of Melbourne, and if you're not paying attention, you could drive straight through it. One of the main attractions? The Royal Mail Hotel. 

The Royal Mail is home to the acclaimed Wickens restaurant – led by executive chef Robin Wickens. A degustatory journey, guests can take part in the five- or eight-course menus, with most of the produce grown just metres away in the organic kitchen garden.

Now, let's talk about the wine. For those dining at Wickens there's a 4200-bottle wine list to ensure the ultimate pairing. But across the street from the Royal Mail is the award-winning cellar. Inside? Almost 40,000 bottles.

Inside the Royal Mail CellarThe Royal Mail Hotel cellar is home to the largest private collection of Bordeaux and Burgundy wines in the Southern Hemisphere.

Says director of the Royal Mail Hotel, John Jerome Myers, "The cellar at the Royal Mail Hotel is a hidden gem, nestled down a discrete lane just across the road from the main hotel. Its unassuming exterior ads to the wow factor for our guests upon stepping inside to discover a treasure trove of wines that we’ve spent decades collecting.

"The extensive volume and remarkable breadth of selection is something we are very proud of. Our cellar is a testament to our commitment to offering exceptional wines to our patrons and our own love affair with wine. Whether you're seeking something unique, a rare vintage or a beloved classic, you'll find it in our cellar."

The cellar houses a range of local and international producers, as well as the Southern Hemisphere's largest private collection of Bordeaux and Burgundy. John Jerome says that for the past 50 years, the Royal Mail has been buying Bordeaux wines through En Primeur, along with Australian distributors. "The team and I have also been spending time in Europe, building connections with producers. This adds a twist to our wine program, letting us offer wines you won't easily find in Australia." But when it comes to local wines, especially those in Western Victoria, the team go straight to the source to support their community.

Wickens kitchenThe Wickens dining experience has four expert wine pairing options to choose from. Or choose your own adventure and select from over 4000 wines on the list.

When it comes to the split of Australian and international wines in the cellar, John Jerome says the volume of international offerings probably just edges out the Australian. 

"We have 10 vintages of Petrus on the list, I don’t know of any other Australian venue that can say that. Several vintages of Le Pin, once again, this is rare for Australian wine lists. It’s a wine you never see. We have several wines from the brilliant 1982 Bordeaux vintage: Latour, Cheval Blanc, Mouton Rothschild, and Château Margaux."

But John Jerome says it's not all Bordeaux. "Some of my personal favourites are the great wines of Barolo and Barbaresco, which we’ve been collecting over the last few years. The wines of Michele Chiarlo are outstanding. I think about the 2016 Riserva, extraordinary! I’ve never opened a bottle of Produttori del Barbaresco and not loved it."

Because the team know matching food and wine can be overwhelming at the best of times, let alone when you introduce that 4200-bottle wine list, guests dining at Wickens can leave the pairing to the experts.

The Royal Mail's food and beverage manager, Leonardo Lupattelli says wine pairings are an integral part of the restaurant's experience. "With over 5000 varieties, we have the privilege of curating pairings that not only harmonise with our cuisine but also introduce guests to unique labels, grape varietals, and wine styles."

Wickens kitchen gardenUp to 80 per cent of the produce served is harvested from the Royal Mail's 1.2-hectare organic kitchen garden.

There are four pairing options to choose from, three that hero wine and one non-alcoholic option.

"Our Cellar pairing highlights lesser-known appellations, uncommon grape varietals, and undiscovered wine regions, offering a journey of exploration. The French pairing – with a spotlight on renowned regions like Bordeaux and Burgundy – features classic grape varietals and includes select back vintages for added depth and complexity. The Sommelier Selection showcases wine world heroes, presenting guests with the opportunity to savour exceptional labels from our collection." 

What each pairing option have in common though is that each wine (or drink) has been hand selected to complement Robin Wickens' mastery, with elegant balance the overall goal.

"Collaboration between the restaurant and kitchen teams ensures a seamless fusion of flavours, resulting in a refined dining experience where wine and food harmonise effortlessly," says Leo.

At the time of our visit, we were lucky enough to experience a once-in-a-lifetime lunch with Château Montrose. John Jerome says he'd like more people to be able to experience those special moments.

In the meantime, John Jerome intends to continue growing the wine offering at the Royal Mail, ensuring its status as a wine destination remains in place. "I am utterly fascinated by the phenomenal wines coming from South America and I would like to ensure that these wines are comprehensively represented on our list. I think we have space to show a greater depth in relation to Australian and Italian wines, and of course we must maintain our French listings."

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Halliday Wine Companion was hosted by the Royal Mail Hotel.