Now in its fifth year, Australia’s largest natural-wine festival, Rootstock Sydney, celebrates all that is wild and free in the wine industry. Over two days at the end of November, 63 small wine producers from Australia, New Zealand, Italy and France will congregate to pour their bottles of skin-contact, unfiltered, minimal-intervention and organic wine.
The wines at Rootstock aren’t the buttoned-up traditional drops our parents grew up with. They’re funky, unbridled and cloudy thanks to organic farming methods and a lack of preservatives and sulphites, which are usually brought in to smooth out a wine’s rough edges. There’s no doubt that preservatives in the bottle and pesticides in the vineyard make winemaking and cellaring more predictable, but they’re also known to mask a wine’s aromas and flavours. Removing them truly lets the juice speak for itself.
For festival co-founder Giorgio di Maria, Rootstock is not just a chance for the public to taste and learn, but for young, small winemakers to collaborate and exchange ideas. “There’s still a lot of confusion around natural wine in Australia,” says di Maria. “It’s a style that’s quite hard to define, that’s why we run this festival. Organic grapes don’t necessarily mean they’re any good. There’s a lot of education to be done about why these wines are different, and why they should be treated differently to the wines most people are used to. At Rootstock, we’re promoting honesty and transparency in the natural-wine industry. The producers who are coming, they get it.”
Ahead of the festival, here’s a collection of spots in Sydney that have jumped on board the natural-wine train. For other bottle shops plus more than 100 of the city’s best retailers and producers, pick up a copy of our brand new book, Broadsheet Sydney Food, available online and sold at Rootstock Sydney.
The Oak Barrel
It’s easy for bottle shops to be sponsored by big drink brands and sell stock that’s easy to move. The Oak Barrel follows a different path, which has more than paid off. You’ll find a large selection of natural wine here with a big Australian focus and great imports from Italy and France. Look out for examples from Tom Shobbrook, Manon and Lucy Margaux.
Joel Amos’s online wine shop may not have a bricks-and-mortar presence, but it’s the best place in Australia to source organic, minimal-intervention wines quickly and easily. “Joel is very well connected to the producers he stocks,” says di Maria. “He’s very Australian-driven, with some key players from overseas represented too.” The DRNKS website is well presented and informative and it stocks the likes of Ochota Barrels, Patrick Sullivan, Ephemera and Gentle Folk, as well as a short and sharp selection of sake and interesting spirits and beers.
Prince Wine Store
Prince Wine Store is booze royalty, especially in Victoria where this prestigious store was founded; the Sydney store is the second outpost for the brand. Prince concentrates on hard-to-find wines of the classical, Old World persuasion; it offers a number of Domaines including three houses in Champagne. Australian producers are well represented, too. There are boxes of Giaconda piled waist-high alongside Farr and Cullen.
David Matters has created a wine lover's paradise on his little corner of Crown Street. For the most part, his shop focuses on independent and boutique Australian winemakers. Matters's long-held relationships with vineyards and distributors mean many bottles can’t be found elsewhere. There’s a healthy selection of natural and orange varietals from Australia and abroad, as well as an impressive selection of champagne. From the natural camp, look out for bottles from Jamsheed, Pheasant’s Tears and Sato.
Five Ways Cellars
This cosy wine shop is just off Paddington’s Five Ways intersection and has served the area since the late ’80s. Owner Ian Cook’s range is broad and well rounded, and his team is happy to seek out hard-to-find bottles for customers with special requests. The Italian section is where particular interest lies, there are more than 150 Italian bottles stocked covering Puglia to Piedmont, with plenty of gems to be found on both ends of the cost spectrum. For minimal-intervention wines, seek out Ruggabellus and Bindi.
Drink nothing but pinot noir? This is your place. There are more than 300 different expressions of this noble grape at Annandale Cellars. In fact, the team loves it so much they hold a tasting fair dedicated to it every year in the shop. Look out too for a collection of fun, loose wines here from Dario Princic, Gentle Folk and Ochota Barrels.
Rootstock Sydney runs from November 25 to 26, 2017 at Carriageworks in Eveleigh. Tickets available through the festival’s website.
Broadsheet is a proud partner of Rootstock Sydney.