Urban wineries are a popular facet of European and New Yorker lifestyles, but winemaker Alex Retief's new cellar door, Urban Winery Sydney, is the first of its kind in Australia — it's the only large-scale, working winery in Sydney's inner suburbs — in the inner west, to be exact.
Retief has owned his label, A.Retief Wines, since 2008 and has seen much commercial success, especially with his 2013 – 2015 collaborations with Bourke Street Bakery. The born and bred Aussie spent the early 2000s in Bordeaux where much of his inspiration for an urban winery took root. "In France, everyone knows about wine — how it's made, where it's produced," he says. "They all have such a passion for their local wine that it's almost like the love of a futball team it's so ingrained in them."
Retief hopes to bring a bit of this European culture to Sydney — his wines have a strong focus on locality, the vineyard and the origin and type of grape used for each wine. The A.Retief Shiraz is sourced from his parent's biodynamic vineyard in the Gundagai wine region just outside of Wagga Wagga. "I have a deep passion for NSW wines and want to bring that to Sydney," says Retief. "People want to see where things are made more and more and we're happy to be able to bring that to them," he adds.
The industrial space is housed in St Peters new Precinct 75, with neighbours like Willie the Boatman, Sample Coffee and Upcycle Studio. At once ornate and rugged, the concrete-floored warehouse is home to a gorgeous handmade bar of rough cut wood and pallets, a luxurious 40-seat dining table and a library-like lounge area — with the shelves filled with wine instead of books, of course.
The walls of French oak barrels are not just for show and are accompanied by shiny, shiny winemaking pumps, presses, syphons, filtration systems — all things you might get to understand a whole lot better with Reitef's planned future classes. "We really want people to get involved with the winemaking process — to get to come down and squash grapes, or blend their own wines and understand why they like what they like."
The tasting bar is now open six nights a week, with the winery also doing tours, blending classes and the occasional chef's dinner.