Getting To Know Our Sommelier, Michael Pyrgos

The deftly curated wine offering at Halcyon House is unquestionably an integral pillar of our luxury property. For several years now, Paper Daisy has garnered national recognition for its unique, diverse, and thought-provoking selection of wines — as well as highly knowledgeable sommeliers and first-class service.

Keeping this facet of the hotel at a lauded level is no easy feat.

Joining Paper Daisy as sommelier towards the end of 2020, Michael Pyrgos is a long-time hospitality professional and wine expert. After years of honing his skills between multiple awarded restaurants within Southeast Queensland, he brings a wealth of experience, an adept skillset, and bags of charisma to this crucial role.

What was your approach when you took over the position as Sommelier at Halcyon House?
I wanted to put my own mark and stamp on the wine list. There was already an excellent base for me to work off, but when I came on board, I was eager to bring in some Greek wine and, at the same time, bolster the Italian and Spanish selection. All of this was done with utter diligence and with Jason’s superb coastal cuisine in mind. Writing wine lists is ultimately adapting to the food, each of the restaurants I’ve worked in previously had its unique character and identity — and Paper Daisy is obviously no different. This all said, I didn’t aim to come in and cause dramatic change. In my opinion, a wine list is always a continuation from sommelier to sommelier; it’s up to the person taking over to evolve the offering — and not just start from scratch. As a wine professional, it’s also an incredible opportunity to come across producers and styles of wine you might not have been familiar with. It’s impossible to know everything around wine, it’s a never-ending story, and as a sommelier, you never really stop learning!

 

What sets apart Paper Daisy’s wine list?
A lot of other wine lists I’d worked around previously were Shiraz dominant and heavier styles of reds. Whereas here at Paper Daisy, our focus is more on Pinot Noirs and aromatic styles. Ultimately, these types of wine suit our sub-tropical climate to a tee.

Because of the restaurant’s character and elegance, Champagne is an extensive section for us. My intention has always been to refine this area with boutique-style offerings and fantastic smaller producers, blended in with the more prominent and better-known labels. Today when Champagne drinkers open our list, there is something for everyone.

 

Are there special considerations made with regards to the food menu?
Jason hinges a lot of his menu on indigenous ingredients and hard to find exciting elements and flavours. In truth, I had a fair amount of learning to do when I joined the property surrounding these foods — I’d simply never worked with them before. Considering wines for the list is a whole process. My utmost consideration is whether it will complement Jason’s food or not. I generally aim for fresh, clean styles that will marry up with the flavours we are currently seeing across the menu. If you’re a regular visitor to Paper Daisy or come and visit us once or twice a year, you’ll notice the list changes. Not in leaps and bounds, mind you, but I’m always thinking of swapping things in and out to keep things stimulating and to avoid the list ever becoming stagnant.

 

What trends are you noticing in how people are drinking wine of late?
Keeping up with tastes and consumer wants is essential. Over the last couple of years, I’ve noticed that more people are interested in new age style wines that have been made with extended skin contact and are unfiltered. Questions around organic and biodynamic practices are very much a conversation I’ll regularly have with our guests. These two-way interactions — as a sommelier — are amazing. Because seeing wine knowledge in our customers increase doesn’t intimidate us; it makes our jobs even more gratifying.

 

Have there been challenges within the role due to the pandemic?
The pandemic has meant acquiring certain wines from particular regions and countries has been challenging. I feel like Australians love to consume premium Australian wine — and why not?   Luckily, Halcyon House has forged strong relationships with wine suppliers over the years. During this period, we have reaped the benefit of still having access to incredible wines and delivering a wine list of intention, not circumstance.

 

How would you describe your methodology as a sommelier?
I’m a big fan of Australian wines — period. In my eyes, the industry has changed significantly in the last ten years, and many talented people are making some cool stuff. Experimenting with new varietals and grapes that can perhaps lend themselves to our differing climates is great to see. As a Greek Cypriot myself, a perfect example is to look at what Jim Barry did with Assyrtiko. He came across it whilst visiting the Greek island of Santorini and decided he would take it back to the Clare Valley in South Australia and give it a go. And quite frankly, now, I see it as the best example of this varietal grown outside of Greece.

A central aspect I keep front of mind when considering our selection is always to try and fuse old school, respected labels with skilful and emerging winemakers. It’s a delicate balance to ensure that both sides are represented objectively: it must always be harmonious.