There's something pretty great about siphoning wine from an oak barrel, particularly on a school night. Things are bound to get a little messy, especially when the drop being poured isn't half bad.
Last Monday night at Bourke Street Bakery in Sydney's Potts Point, a mix of bakers, winemakers, regulars and locals rolled up their sleeves to bottle the bakery's second vintage, a 2014 tempranillo from the Hilltops region in New South Wales, made in collaboration with winemaker Alex Retief. The evening was as much a working-bee as it was a night for celebration after the seemingly unstoppable Bourke Street team opened their seventh bakery in Banksmeadow on the same day; then returned east to bottle the results of their Natural Wine Project.
"We put half a tonne of grapes in a big picking bucket back in April, and left it to do its thing," said Bourke Street co-founder and baker David McGuinness. "It was just a two-metre-square tub with an open lid, full of grapes, sitting in the bakery. We have a fair bit of wild yeast flying around at work, so there's a bit of Bourke Street in there, too."
Retief, a Wagga-born winemaker and Potts Point local, was once again called upon to oversee the vintage, having first met the Bourke Street team when selling them wines for sibling restaurant Wilbur's Place. "These grapes came from the Young, Harden and Boorowa region in the Hilltops, about an hour and a half north-west of Canberra," said Retief. "There's a lot of character in the fruit, but it's not fruity, if you know what I mean."
"I wasn't worried about what we ended up with," said McGuinness. "I just wanted to go through the process, and know all of our customers could become part of that process as well."
Between all the siphoning, topping (and mopping) up, corking, drying, labelling and wax-dipping of the 46 dozen bottles there were plenty of jobs to go around on the night - and luckily, most of them were possible to do with a glass poured straight from the barrel in hand (or a lamb and harissa sausage roll).
The best description Retief has of the finished wine, he says, is that "it's like barbecue or pizza shapes. It's got that spice there, but a little bit of sweetness, too, and it's highly addictive."
The Bourke Street Bakery Natural Wine Project Tempranillo 2014 is available to drink now at Wilbur's Place and Bourke Street Bakery, Potts Point. Wilbur's Place, 36 Llankelly Pl, Potts Point, NSW, (02) 9332 2999; Bourke Street Bakery, 46 Macleay St (entry via Crick Ave), Potts Point, NSW, (02) 9380 9700.