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FOOD & DRINK

Boutique Cellars and Bottle Shops to Swing By on Your Way to a BYO Restaurant or Dinner Party

Funky natural wines, craft beers and artisanal spirits are easier to find than you may think.
By Marissa Ciampi
July 28, 2020
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Boutique Cellars and Bottle Shops to Swing By on Your Way to a BYO Restaurant or Dinner Party

Funky natural wines, craft beers and artisanal spirits are easier to find than you may think.
By Marissa Ciampi
July 28, 2020
  shares

BOUTIQUE CELLARS AND BOTTLE SHOPS TO SWING BY ON YOUR WAY TO A BYO RESTAURANT OR DINNER PARTY

in partnership with

Funky natural wines, craft beers and artisanal spirits are easier to find than you may think.

Hands up if you're guilty of repurchasing that same wine or six-pack every time you head to the bottle-o? The bigger chain stores are pretty reliable for restocking our old favourites, but if you're keen to branch out and discover some new drops by local producers, you may need to look a little further. So, we've partnered with American Express to shine a light on some of Sydney's more specialised liquor stores — the ones that are passionate about new and innovative production methods, ingredients and flavours.

Whether you're heading to a friend's place for dinner, joining a house party or eating out at one of your favourite BYO-friendly restaurants, these bottle shops are packed to the brim with excellent natural wines, quirky craft beers and specialty liquors. From family-owned and decades-old joints to new up-and-comers, these retailers will help you shop small with your Amex Card and impress your mates on a night out (or in).

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    The northern beaches got a major addition to its booze game when Winona Wine opened its doors last year. The specialty bottle shop on Pittwater Road better resembles an art gallery than your local bottle-o. The team here specifically works with organic, biodynamic and sustainable vineyards and minimal intervention winemakers. Meanwhile, quirky craft beers like Tasmania’s Two Metre Tall and Marrickville’s Wildflower Brewing are also on display, along with Junmai sake and other artisanal spirits from across the globe — think Mexican mezcal, Danish vodka and Syrian gin.

    Apart from all the booze, there’s an impressive collection of drinkware and wine accessories on offer, too. So if you’re on the hunt for a special gift, check out the handblown decanters, tumblers made using recycled clay and brass corkscrews. While the bottle-o is takeaway only, the shop hosts regular tastings, meet-the-maker events and masterclasses. Keep an eye on its Facebook page for upcoming event details.

    Image: Kitti Gould

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    P&V Wines & Liquor Merchant is an inner west gem, thanks to the team behind Mary’s and wine expert Mike Bennie. Here, the team sources small-batch everything, from organic wines and local beer to bespoke spirits. Some of the best drops in the place are made especially for P&V, including a crowd-pleasing orange wine and a batched Poor Toms negroni. If you’re a fan of pét nats, P&V has a huge range, including an especially tasty number by Blind Unicorn and La Violetta’s super juicy Patio Nat. Beers and ciders range from local to international, like Melbourne’s La Sirène and Normandy’s Cyril Zangs.

    Aside from booze, the store also has a steady non-alcoholic offering, including PS40 sodas and Mailer McGuire kombucha on tap, and plenty of high-brow snacks. That includes oysters, freshly shucked on site, to go with any bottle you fancy.

    Image: Trent van der Jagt

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    Bayswater Fine Wines

    At Bayswater Fine Wines, the staff’s legit knowledge and true passion for wine makes it an eastern suburbs winner. Its split level bottle shop is also a sight to behold in its own right — think floor-to-ceiling windows, library-style wine cabinets, a Victorian ash counter and a chandelier made of 750 champagne flutes. And we have to mention the mezzanine fine wine room, which houses the shop’s range of aged and rare wines and hosts exclusive members-only tasting events.

    You can become a member over here, with benefits including access to that wine room, plus regular discounts, monthly specials and exclusive wine education experiences. Specials change regularly, but you can expect to see the likes of Yulli’s Brews cider, Espolon Blanco tequila and minimal intervention drops from Tread Softly. The Rushcutters Bay location also has sister venues in Darlinghurst and Paddington.

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    Balmoral Cellars

    Set right on the beach with views aplenty, Balmoral Cellars has been one of the suburb’s legendary establishments since 1951. The current owner has run the shop for 20 years now, and he’s a local expert on all things wine.

    The shop is open daily and focuses on Australian labels — from malbecs and shiraz–grenache blends to classic merlots. This cellar doesn’t just stock wines from well-known regions like Barossa Valley, Margaret River and Mudgee, either; it also offers drops from lesser-known spots like Coonawarra, SA and Buronga, NSW. Balmoral Cellars is a convenience store, too, so you can grab your booze and nibbles all in one go. Plus, you can nab free delivery on orders over $100, or free local delivery on all orders to Mosman, Cremorne and Neutral Bay.

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    Ben Buckler Cellars

    Next time you’re in Bondi, don’t miss the chance to mosey up Campbell Parade to Ben Buckler Cellars. Locals know this spot as a wall-to-wall wine haven, with a wide range of both Australian and imported wines on offer. Plenty of family-owned labels are on display here from little known wine regions, and the staff is very knowledgeable, offering wine-drinking tips and direct access to winemakers.

    Expect regular specials and rare wine styles to grace the shelves — like durif, nebbiolo and viognier — so if you’re on the hunt for something super specific, this may be where you’ll strike gold. You’ll also find a selection of locally made spirits here, too, including Manly Spirits’ gins and botanical vodkas.

    Images: Yaya Stempler

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    The Oak Barrel

    Opened way back in 1956, The Oak Barrel is one of the oldest independent bottle shops in the city. And its undeniably impressive stock makes it a CBD go-to after a big day at work or if you’re heading to lunch with your colleagues. The craft beer corridor alone could take days to navigate and can make even the biggest beer snob’s jaw drop. Apart from beer, fine whisky is also a focus here, with everything from Tasmanian single cask to private collection scotch and Kentucky rye. And there are wines from around the globe to choose from, too.

    The staff here is split into booze-specific roles and has encyclopaedic knowledge in their chosen booze field — so they can help you make an educated decision. The shop also hosts regular events and tasting nights to excite your palate.

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    BottlO'Briens

    Cronulla’s Bottlo’Briens is a local hero for all things booze. Starting with craft beer, the bottle shop always has the latest and greatest — at the moment, that includes The Grifter‘s entire range, plus Akasha‘s Wooden Leg triple IPA and Hope Estate‘s Sunny Boy sour and Imperial pineapple sour. It also has Stone & Wood’s new Sunly Seltzer brand in flavours like Davidson plum and berry.

    Apart from the massive craft beer range, the shop also focuses on emerging wine producers and artisanal spirits, along with a new range dedicated to low-ABV and non-alcoholic wines. The latest addition to these is Melbourne-based label Non, which produces zero-alcohol wine alternatives in innovative flavour combos like toasted cinnamon and yuzu or lemon marmalade and hibiscus. The latter was made in collaboration with popular Melbourne cafe Assembly. Bottlo’Briens is now stocking cheese and charcuterie in store, too, and has just launched online delivery Australia wide. Delivery is free for surrounding suburbs, and next day delivery is available if you place your order before 11am.

    Image: Leigh Griffiths

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    Annandale Cellars

    This proudly independent and family-owned bottle shop is passionate about all things local — from craft beer to organic wines. Having recently moved around the corner to a bigger and better storefront along Booth Street, the shop is a true champion of natural drops.

    Expect plenty of skin contact, orange, pét-nat, wild, minimal intervention and bio-dynamic wines up for grabs — including owner Chris Loth’s own label of preservative-free drops. Here, you’ll mostly see labels that you’ve never heard of before. But the staff is always on hand to help you peruse, and will happily suggest bottles that suit your price range. The cellars also runs regular wine fairs for just $20 each, and weekly free wine tastings to boot.

    Image: Cassandra Hannagan 

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    Tom's Cellars

    The Tom’s Cellars slogan is ‘a journey through wine’, and that’s exactly what you’ll go on during any visit to this shop. The business is run by husband and wife duo Tom and Vanessa Mazzei, who now boast two locations — this one in North Turramurra and another in West Pymble, which have been operating since 2010 and 2008, respectively.

    Each bottle in the shop is handpicked by the owners, whether its wine, craft beer or craft liquor. And this is a very good thing since they have extensive experience in the booze industry. In the past, Tom Mazzei has distributed for labels like Leeuwin Estate, Moss Wood, Mt Langi, Pierro and Fox Creek — which led him to realise that many specialty bottle shops in Sydney were no longer stocking the little guys. So Tom’s Cellars was born and has been championing small producers ever since.

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    Fleet Street Mona Vale

    Mona Vale’s Pittwater Cellars is known for its top-notch customer service and wide variety of wines. And those include a focus on non-alcoholic varieties, from the likes of McGuigan Wines Zero and Fizzero rosé.

    The spirits section is also impressive in its own right, with labels like Ardmore Highland single malt scotch, Bundaberg rum and Basil Hayden’s bourbon. Canned mixed drinks and classic Aussie beers are also on offer here, so you can pick up something for everyone. But, if you’re specifically looking to change up your own BYO game, you can do that here, too, and impress even your most discerning mates.

    Image: Leigh Griffiths

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    Chiswick Cellars

    Chiswick Cellars is another family-run operation, which celebrated 26 years in the business in 2020. Located on Blackwall Point Road, the small business boasts a friendly team that is more than happy to help you decide what to purchase. The focus here is on the wine, though a basic liquor and beer offering is also on the docket. It’s best to spend some time perusing the shelves — with so much on offer, you won’t want to rush. Apart from all the booze, there’s also a sizeable deli attached, so it’s a great place to test your skills with wine and food pairing.

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Shop small to support the local stores that make Sydney so great. To learn about American Express and the Shop Small initiative, visit here. Then, head this way to find more must-visit spots around Sydney.

Top image: P&V Wines and Liquor Merchant, Trent van der Jagt

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