Established hospitality (food/leisure/lifestyle) and personal development freelance writer/journalist/book author. Check out some of Justine's recently published food articles here: sydneyfoodlovers.hubgarden.com/
Definitely more original than the last remaining Bottle-o's hanging around Sydney. No excuses, this great wine store is in a fairly central location along Sydney's Elizabeth Street. You cannot do better than Simon, the owner who was a Melburnian turned Sydneysider. Simon and Julian are two of the nicest people you can ever meet, and I was fortunate to have been invited to The Oak Barrel to learn more (and enjoy) the best craft beer, wine and whiskey in a civilised setting.
Simon and Julian can talk about wine all night, and it shows. I was lucky to have been shown through the vault: a place at The Oak Barrel where the oldest Italian, French and Aussie wines are stored. A great, well organised store. Their educational programs have been running for around three and a half years. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
It is like you are sitting at a dinner table with friends. A group of strangers quickly become social, and if your lucky you might just make a few more friends. I certainly did.
Your wine IQ gets expanded, and there is a game called 'options' where if you are the last man standing (you guessed the mystery wine right) you win a prize. Perhaps an expensive $200 bottle of whisky.
The first touch of Sydney alcohol was the Happy Goblin Pale Ale, a craft beer created by two out there guys in Mount Kuring-gai. Definitely a refreshing alternative. It makes some of those cheap pub brews the fast food version of beer in comparison. A refreshing brew that grows on you, and this is even coming from someone who isn't a beer lover. If at first you do not like this beer, take another sip and it will easily grow on you. A good home brew. A light brew and a refreshing alternative.
Now it was into wine territory, and Julian gave us a great educational experience on organic wines. The first glass of wine to taste was the Henschke Julius Riesling 1995 (Eden Valley) with a strong aroma, and from what someone else thought had a bit of a kerosene taste to it. It was interesting to find out, that in order to be an organic winemaker you need to pay some top dollars in order to become certified. Certified organic wine makers in Italy need to cough up the most in order to keep their certification. Is it worth it? Find out for yourself at The Oak Barrel. You will not be disappointed.
Did you know that Cabernet Sauvignon is illegal in some areas of France - such as in Burgundy and Languedoc? This is why the 'cab sav' is a tricky find in some French wines. From what appears to be a bit of a nail polish smell makes way for a great glass of red for the irregular wine drinker. Welcome to the Les Temps Des Cerises 2010 (Languedoc, France) from the south coast region of France. Cabernet sauvignon is one of the main varieties in Bordeaux. This wine has no pesticides.
The staff at The Oak Barrel also get that when you drink a lot of wine, you appreciate the dryer ones. It was perfect that some gourmet cheeses were provided. The cheeses brought out the best in the next glass of red wine tasted at The Oak Barrel. Depending on the cheese, the cheese could overpower your glass of Jauma 'Blewett Springs' Grenache 2011 (McLaren Vale) depending on your palate. This wine is natural, and a bit on the spicy and dusty side. This quality drop at The Oak Barrel was made by Sydney based winemaker James Erskine. This wine is not for everyone. It will feel like someone has accidentally sprinkled some pepper into your drop. A great, mature tasting wine. I am loving the wine tasting thus far.
The 'mystery' wine turned out to the the Shiraz. Definitely a spicy drop of red. The final glass of red wine tasted was the Sutton Grange Estate Syrah 2006 (Bendigo), which for me somehow brought out some of the fruitiness flavour.
Last but not least, this educational (but fun) experience was not complete without tasting some whisky. It is interesting to note that the price of whisky fluctuates depending on demand, no different to fish being sold at the Fish Markets. The Oak Barrel sells around 250 different whiskeys. I was fortunate to try a drop of the Limeburners Single Malt Whiskey Barrel M6 (Western Australia) and taking it up to my nose, I could feel it burning. I also felt my mouth stinging. Simon mentioned that whisky is something "that you either like or you don't." It's just one of those things. Surprisingly, I liked it and so did the majority of the room. Add a drop of bottled water at room temperature, and take a couple more sips of the whisky: it takes the sting out of the sting, and hence becomes a really enjoyable drink.
Beautiful ambience and a well presented liquor store and 'educational' centre. The Oak Barrel is an awesome independent wine and liquor store in the CBD. In addition to selling quality liquor and running wine educational sessions, The Oak Barrel also runs a series of ad hoc events. The Oak Barrel run craft beer fairs and a whisky fair to name a few. This whisky event will enable attendees to taste over 100 different whiskies. Heaven.
Just a couple of things to clarify from that night. You don't have to be certified to be an organic winemaker; however to be certified you have to pay some dollars - not as much as $7000 in Australia (my misunderstanding sorry) although in countries such as Italy it is expensive. Also Cab Sav is not illegal in all of France; only in parts of France such as Burgundy and Languedoc. Its one of the main varieties in Bordeaux. Many thanks