Anyone who’s braved the dating scene in Sydney knows that on a first date, the right amount of alcohol can be a lifesaver.
But dating (and cost of living in Sydney in general) is expensive and you soon find yourself scraping together pennies during the week to fund dates. The weather is warming up, so head to your favourite bottle shop or online retailer and plan a first date adventure that won’t break the bank.
Below are five of my current favourite wines.
2006 Arras Blanc de Blanc sparkling – $80
Far better quality and a third of the price of vintage French Champagne, save your money (which if the first date goes well, you can use on the second date) for a really kickass bottle of Australian premium sparkling. House of Arras in Tasmania – Established in 1995 – produces some of the most highly awarded sparkling wines in Australia. Ed Carr (considered in wine circles to be the godfather of Australian sparkling) makes the wines. They have consistently been recognised as equal to (if not better than) some of the most revered Champagne houses in blind tastings and competitions, a little fact you can slip in as you pour a glass and eat some freshly shucked oysters at the Fish Markets in Pyrmont.
2016 Dub Style ‘No. 1 Bubbly’ viognier – $12 per can
Skin-contact viognier in a handy park-size 375-millilitre can, this pretty little number packs a surprising punch. Slightly sweet and spritzy (like a drier version of moscato) it contains a 10.9% abv per can, so handle with caution. We recommend sharing a couple of cans between two.
2016 Blind Corner sauvignon blanc – $25
Judging by wine sales over the past eight or so years, people still really like sauvignon blanc. But why bring along your run-of-the-mill New Zealand number to pair with your cheese plate, charcuterie (and if the budget allows, smoked ocean trout) twilight spread when we’re making some delicious and interesting expressions of the varietal here. Enter the Blind Corner sauvignon blanc filled with texture, layers of fruit character, with just a lick of acidity for balance that will excite even haters of the variety.
2016 Brokenwood rosato nebbiolo – $28
The heart of the Hunter Valley has gone across the border to pick some nebbiolo grapes to make one fantastic rosato. Nebbiolo is a native Italian variety, which tends to have quite thick skins on the vines, which means the grape juice naturally has quite high tannin and acidity. This is a great basis for rosé because it’s going to provide a dry and yet completely flavoursome style perfect for chargrilled or barbeque meats. Want to have a little fun? Put the bottle in the freezer before your date arrives (but keep an eye on it!) to create frozen rosé cocktails or “frosé”.
2015 Vignerons Schmolzer and Brown “pret a rogue” shiraz, pinot noir, sangiovese– $27
This one is a blend of Alpine Valleys and Beechworth fruit, which provides a perfect opening for you to regale your date with stories of the past snow season (the Alpine Valleys is the region you drive through to get to Mt. Hotham). This blend is unusual and if you like lighter-style reds, this one is for you. Bright, red-fruit flavours with lively acidity; it could even handle being plonked in an ice bucket and served chilled as you watch the sun set on a balcony somewhere.
Want to leave your wine choices in the hands of the experts instead? Here are a few favourite first-date wine bars:
Love Tilly Devine, Surry Hills: Has a consistently great wine list that focuses on interesting and obscure wines from across the globe; it’s a frequent haunt of winemakers and wine industry folk. Ask for one of the sommelier’s mystery wines by the glass if you’re feeling adventurous – and guessing a wine blind is a great way to cut through the tension if you’ve used up all your trusty conversation points in the first five minutes.
Wine Library, Woollahra: A first date favourite, sit up at the bar and banter with the boys and learn about the new and exciting things they’re pouring at the moment. All first date nerves will be washed away with owner Johnny Giuffre’s calm presence. Before you order drinks get the black truffle and stracchino quesadilla.
Fix Wine Bar and Restaurant, CBD: Stu Knox is like a wine whisperer – whenever a sommelier is searching for a new or different wine (or even to be re-introduced to a grape variety they might have forgotten, like at Knox’s month-long dedication to cabernet franc) we head to Fix. He’s the first to remind you not to take wine too seriously – that it is first and foremost meant to be fun.