Top 5 Independent Bottle Shops
I love a good bottle shop – it’s as exciting as a fabulous book store or specialist kitchenware shop – once I walk in I can be lost for hours. These stores are owned and staffed by people who are passionate about wine, and passionate about educating us about wine – they run free weekly tastings and have informative newsletters (and while wine’s their focus they do carry great spirits and beer as well). They hand-select what they carry, often from small producers with limited production that don’t sell to the big chains. And while you’ll certainly find bottles here with hefty price tags, you can also pick up something delicious and interesting for under $20. Like all good independent provedores, there’s less of them around these days. So ‘use it or lose it’ – drive past the big faceless liquor chains and seek out an independent bottle shop near you. Support them and benefit from their knowledge and connections. Here are five of my favourites to get you started.
Prince Wine Store Zetland
One of Melbourne’s most iconic bottle shops opened in Sydney over a year ago in a modern warehouse space with lots of charm and big plans. Weekly staff tastings with producers determine what’s stocked, they run free weekly tastings as well as serious wine courses and their wine bar should open very soon.
Five Way Cellars Paddington
Ian Cook has been a prominent spokesman for Australian and imported fine wine, hosting winemaker dinners and tastings, for over 20 years. His passion for French wine, especially Burgundy, is obvious as soon as you walk into his tiny shop just up from Five Ways. I’m rather keen on his range of fortifieds too!
Sixty Darling Street Fine Wine Balmain
There’s a lot to discover in this rather sprawling jumble of boxes, shelving and cases down the leafy, sandstone end of Balmain. The wall of riesling certainly caught my eye and I love the hand written tasting notes on tags around bottle necks. Co-owner Hilary Keily describes their range as ‘curated’ – like fine art.
Castlecrag Cellars Castlecrag
George Doukas prides himself on knowing what his customers want: great value, an eclectic range and plenty of stock on hand. Whether it’s a bottle of $14 tempranillo from a great new Spanish producer or a couple of cases of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, it’s here. Plus a great range of imported beers.
Annandale Cellars Annandale
It may just be my personal bias, but I love a bottle shop with a serious commitment to pinot noir and natural wines. Throw in a winemaker and a sommelier among the key staff, interesting weekly in-store tastings and newsletters, plus a great online store – and I’m impressed.
Honourable mention in the specialisation stakes must go to Leichhardt’s Amatos Liquor Mart for everything Italian and Delicado Wine Store in McMahons Point for all things Spanish, including a fab range of Sherries.