Enter the quaint Field Blend Wine and Cheese Store on Balmain’s Darling Street and you’ll likely catch owner Aaron Taylor chatting to a producer, a box of bottles at their feet. “My producers are always dropping in,” Taylor says, apologising as another visitor pauses our interview.

It means the stock is always changing and customers can often talk directly to the people who make it.

Even if a visit to the store – which is at the quiet end of Darling Street, a few blocks past the busiest retail strip – doesn’t involve an encounter with a producer, Taylor has plenty of expertise to assist customers. Before opening this shop he was sommelier at excellent seafood restaurant Cirrus Dining in Barangaroo and, before that, he and partner Martina Brazdovicova owned the Cellar Wine Door in Victoria’s Beechworth.

At Field Blend the focus is on small-scale operators. “We try to work with producers who we can have a connection with, and who we feel have a connection to what they’re making,” he says. “This isn’t stuff mass-produced in a giant winery; we want people to tell the story behind the wine.”

Of the selection available when Broadsheet visits, Taylor recommends the 2016 Piano Piano chardonnay from Beechworth. “There’s lots of flavour, complexity and for the price I think it offers good value.”

A different take on a popular drop is the 2017 riesling by Mallaluka in Canberra’s wine district, which benefits from skin contact. “There’s lots of grip and tannin from [Sam Leyshon’s] producing style.”

Small makers aren’t always Australian, and there’s a good selection of French wines too, such as the La Sagesse grenache blend from the family-operated Domaine Gramenon in Côtes du Rhône. “It’s a really juicy, delicious wine and I’m always really impressed by the quality. I love to sell it to people looking to try something special.”

And then there’s the food. A large glass fridge is packed with Australian and French cheeses, and meats from the likes of Romeo’s Fine Food in St Peters. Like the booze, the selection changes regularly, and alongside salumi there are rilettes, patés and terrines. There’s also a coffee machine, with Allpress the house blend.

There are some nice touches, including a vintage meat slicer, handmade timber shelves and blown-glass light fixtures. And best of all, its proximity to the wharf means you can grab a bottle of vino, some meat and cheese, or one of the store’s takeaway hamper boxes, and have a picnic in the park. Lay out a rug and watch the ferries go by.

Field Blend Wine & Cheese Store
207 Darling Street, Balmain
(02) 9810 0122

Hours:
Mon to Wed 8am–6pm
Thu & Fri 8am–9pm
Sat 9am–9pm
Sun 9am–4pm

fieldblendwinestore.com.au

This article first appeared on Broadsheet on January 17, 2019. Menu items may have changed since publication.