Adrian Filiuta is one of six Master Sommeliers in Australia and one of 273 in the world. The wine professional worked at Merivale as group sommelier for more than 11 years, directing programs for 70-plus venues during his lengthy tenure with the group.

But all good things must come to an end. Filiuta decided to part ways with Merivale in 2022 and venture into a different game — retail. Now, he is the owner of Hunters Hill Wine Room — a boutique destination for wine, spirits, and pre-batched cocktails, too. The Master Sommelier speaks to Hospitality about answering the call of a community that had long been waiting for something different.

When Adrian Filiuta came across a vacant space on Alexandra Street, he knew he had to have it. The store is located inside a heritage building, with the wine professional describing it as “too good to let go”. From the location to the layout, it ticked all the boxes. “It’s halfway between Hunters Hill and Woolwich and there is no competition,” he says.

Filiuta originally wanted to open a wine bar but made the decision to launch a wine store instead. And while he’s well aware he’s not reinventing the wheel with the concept, the focus is on customer experience rather than sales.

“I’m selling wine and providing a good service to the community, but my focus is on looking at this with a hospitality lens where you engage with the customer and look after them,” he says. “It’s not about the transaction of coming in, buying something, and leaving.”

Hunters Hill Wine Room has only been open for a month now, but Filiuta has taken note of the wines that are selling well. “I have seen middle-aged professionals buying Chablis, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay to the younger crowd who are after canned wines and seltzers,” he says. “People have also been coming in with specific requests such as Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley. It’s an educated clientele who have travelled to certain regions of the world. The classics have been selling well, but people are
happy to explore. It’s very encouraging.”

Motivating patrons to try something different is part of the Wine Room’s fabric, with customers able to walk in and sample different wines during the week. “It’s an education piece,” says Filiuta. “Within six months, there will be something to taste every day without us having to communicate it to the public.”

Meet the winemaker events are also in the pipeline, with the Master Sommelier looking to spotlight up-and-coming producers locals may not be familiar with. “I am working with a lot of smaller growers of the younger generation, and I want to bring them in so the community can meet the people behind the label,” says Filiuta. “From a customer point of view, there is more awareness now about how makers farm and the
stories behind the wines — it’s a hot point.”

As for trending drops and countries of interest? Filiuta tips Italy as a region that’s in the midst of a resurgence — “there’s a lot going on from north to south” — as well as wines from the Riverland and Murray-Darling here in Australia. “The bulk of wine production used to come from there but now there is a new generation of winemakers exploring the area because the price of grapes is much more affordable. Growers are producing more organic and biodynamic crops and focusing on quality.”

There are also some innovations coming out of McLaren Vale, with winemakers taking Grenache grown in sandy soil and producing perfumed, elegant, and fresh wines instead of the heavy drops the variety is associated with. There are more than 1,000 wines to choose from at the Wine Room as well as batched cocktails and spirits, but Filiuta’s main goal is to create a space where anyone can walk in regardless
of their knowledge.

“The wine world is vast and sometimes overwhelming for those wanting to dip their toes in,” he says. “I hope to create a more down-to-earth and approachable experience
where I can impart my passion and expertise and help make wine exploration enjoyable and enlightening for all.”

As for the future? Filiuta hopes to expand beyond the physical store in the coming months and offer a bespoke drinks service which will take the pressure off hosting. “I am looking into offering beverage services to people doing parties at home, so I
would do all the beverages and the glassware, too.”

There’s no doubt Filiuta is providing a unique experience to the local market, one which allows customers to walk into a store and ask a Master Sommelier for a personal recommendation, discover something new, or even just come in for a chat about all things wine. And there’s only one place in Sydney you can do that.