The changing wine scene in Sydney lures wine lovers

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Bentley.jpgSydney has certainly changed, even in the 12 months since I last visited. What is really exciting is that there is a host of wine bar-like venues that are quickly making this beautiful city an exciting venue for wine-lovers, a mantle previously (and in some cases still) held by Melbourne, reports peripatetic SI correspondent, Harshal Shah from Australia. Pictured: The wine list at Bentley Restaurant and Bar


When I left Sydney for India three years ago, I would have been hard-pressed to name more than two or three specialist wine bars (the classy Bentley Restaurant and Bar and my friend Charles Leong’s supper club, Aperitif immediately come to mind). However, today, I find myself spoiled for choice. And on offer is more than a staple of big-name Aussie producers (Peter Lehmann, Glaetzer, Petaluma etc) with good ol’ (boring) varietals like Shiraz and Chardonnay. It has been a really pleasant surprise to have found Timorasso, Muller Thurgau and Zinfandel.
What has really been driven home, however, is that the selection of wine available in India can easily compare to that available in Sydney, which has traditionally been rather parochial in its wine offering. I can honestly say that, for example, Ornellaia’s top wine, Massetto (a 100% Merlot from Tuscany) is largely unheard of in Sydney, but I can easily recall three or four hotels in Delhi that list it. Let’s not make a mistake: Sydney is still a far more sophisticated and developed wine-drinking market than any city in India, but India is not that far behind. If liquor licensing is made less cumbersome and the taxes and duties on wines come down, I predict India will quickly develop its wine consuming ‘culture’ to rival that of any established market anywhere in the world.
Highlights from my trip have been tasting the 2005 Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier from Canberra on board Qantas Airways. This truly has to be one of the best wines in Australia. There’s more than an homage to Côte Rôtie in its layers of fruit, spice and floral flavours.
The distinguished eastern Sydney suburb of Paddington has a new wine bar called Wine Library and it is rather a grown-up, sophisticated place that still knows how to offer lots of fun. The food is presented in small serves (much like tapas) but the wine list far surpassed the menu. Even I was surprised to see a page of wine from the famed Domaine de la Romanée Conti cru. I had to turn the page very quickly, however, as most of the bottles cost more than my air ticket back to India!
And my old sommelier buddy Stuart Knox (who cut his teeth at Bibendum in London and the excellent Forty-One in Sydney) has opened one of Sydney’s best wine bistros. Taking inspiration from the ground-breaking Terroir bar in New York, Stuart offers funky, good-quality wines from some of the lesser-known but emerging cult producers from around the world. His latest obsession is with natural wine – wine that is produced with as little intervention as possible. It is not necessarily organic, but rather a wine that has as few additives as possible, including acid, sulphites and foreign yeasts. He is serving this wine out of flagons into 50cl or 100cl carafes.
Finally, last night, I met a producer from Canberra whose wine – Eden Road Wines – are winning awards in many of the famed Austrlian wine shows. His 2009 Eden Road Shiraz (released in a few months) is a smart, elegant and delicate wine quite unlike Shirazes from the South Australian regions of Barossa Valley or McLaren Vale. The wine is distinctly Australia but I couldn’t help being reminded of a fruity Crozes Hermitage. It is still rare to find Australian Shiraz with minerality, acid-balance and fine texture all in one. This is certainly where the future of Australian red wine lies. I can’t wait to see these wines in India.
So now it is onwards to Germany via a brief stop in Delhi to get some laundry done! I shall be judging in Mundus Vini, a competition with over 6,000 wine entries and look forward to reporting from there – if I survive!

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