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Latest Wine News

Mac Forbes

Mac Forbes’ wines were always something of a mystery to me. I’d only tried his wines sparingly; a Chardonnay or Riesling here, a Pinot Noir there. They were always stunning wines – aromatic, fresh, perfectly balanced – but they were also few and far between, and I was new to wine then and couldn’t get my head around them properly. I’d heard he was surprisingly young given the gravitas of his wines. His winemaking differed from other Yarra Valley producers when he released his first vintage in 2005. Mac wanted his wines to be a true expression of place. He chose his sites based on their soil type and vine age, and how both were protected from the sun and wind. His wines are minimal intervention, unfined and unfiltered, and with little use of oak.

Mac cut his teeth in the South of France before spending two years at a little winery called Mount Mary, which was very recently named Australia’s Winery of the Year for 2018 by James Halliday. Mac was born and raised in the Yarra Valley and expresses his affinity for the region by foregrounding the specific places his grapes are from, such as Woori Yallock, Gruyere, Hoddles Creek, Yarra Junction, and Wesburn.

Mac’s wines focus on sustainable practices in the vineyard for the health of the vines and the quality of the fruit produced. His method of working aims to express the fruit and terroir. 

Mac was in Sydney recently to launch his new ‘EB’ (Experimental Batch) range of wines. These are Mac's fun wines, where he can try out new ideas and varieties. We think they're fantastic. They're bright and fresh but not without depth and structure.

Experimental Batch releases:

EB15 ‘Pretty Young Thing’ Syrah Nouveau

EB25 Wessie Whites Pet Nat

EB25 Wessie Whites (Still)

EB27 Cabernet Blend 2015

EB28 Pinot Nebbiolo 2016

EB30 Nebbiolo 2016 


Current Mac Forbes release:

RS10 Riesling 

Yarra Valley Syrah 2016

Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2016

‘Hugh’ Cabernet Blend 2015

‘Hugh’ Merlot 2016


Browse our full range of Mac Forbes wines here.

Posted: 17/08/2017
Natural Wine Evening

For this special night we will explore the world of Natural wine, opening some domestic and international natural wine.

The term "natural wine" is fast becoming a common term around the country's bottle stores, bars and dinner tables.

But what is it exactly? And does it taste different?

A natural wine doesn’t mean that other wines are un-natural, but let’s say that most 'natural' wines are made with a shared philosophy: minimum intervention. The movement shares the same idea across the globe and we can find natural wines in every country now including, Australia, Georgia, France or Italy.

The last two have a long history in natural wine making. With a focus on the care of their vineyards, they prefer to use less machinery and little additives to maintain the integrity of their wines. Minimising the use of sulphur is big part of this and a main topic of conversation, not just in Italy and France, but around the world.

These tastings will be suitable for everyone who wishes to know a little more about wine. We will be trying a mix of different wines. It won’t be too technical a tasting but rather a night of discovery so you’ll be able to understand what’s actually making the flavours in your glass - and arm you with important dinner party/water cooler/pub chatter. It will also give you an appreciation of what styles suit you best (and how to get the best out of each glass!).

Truth is, there is no ‘best wine’, the best wine is the wine you like the most and that’s what we’ll be exploring. It doesn’t matter how much a bottle costs, inexpensive or premium, the tastings will be based on quality and focus on small growers and sustainable products.  

Come and join us for a fun night to discover (or rediscover) the world of wine around a good glass. Hosted by the Oak Barrel’s own wine specialist, we’ll go through seven (or eight) different expressions exhibiting a range of flavour profiles and from around the world.

WHEN: Wednesday September 27th
TIME: 6:30pm to 8:15pm
WHERE: The Oak Barrel, 152 Elizabeth St, Sydney CBD
PRICE: $25 for members; $35 for non-members

We’ll be trying:

Pheasants Tears Chinuri 2014
Sigurd White Field Blend 2016
Envinate Taganan Blanco 2015
Recrue des Sens Les Ponts Blanc Aligote 2014
Shobbrook Rose 2016
Lucy Margaux Village of Tiers Pinot Noir 2016
Gentle Folk Little One Petit Verdot 2016
Ochota Barrels Owl Shiraz 2016
Jauma Seaview Cabernet Franc 2016

Wines are subject to change due to unforeseen circumstances. Tickets are non-transferable and non-refundable.

Posted: 15/08/2017
Wendouree 2015 Allocation

After much anticipation, the 2015 vintage allocation of Wendouree wines is now available.

Wendouree is considered to be one of the most mythic wineries in Australia. The winery is not open to the public and they do not have a website. Only a very limited amount of wine is produced each year and is made available through an exclusive mail ballot. Those fortunate enough to find themselves on the list are sent a hard copy order form sometime in July. Order forms are often returned with strange crayon markings, leading to conspiracy theories as to how the wines – and their lucky recipients – were selected. 

Having supported Wendouree for three decades, we are one of the few wine stores in Australia to receive an annual allocation of this cult wine – something we are honoured by. Wendouree is one of Australia’s most collected wines and it is difficult to secure little more than a few bottles each vintage.

A little about Wendouree: 

Wendouree is located in the Clare Valley, South Australia. Their vines were among some of the earliest planted in Australia in 1893. The vines were grafted from the original James Busby collection held in Adelaide's Botanical Gardens (Busby is considered the father of the Australian wine industry, bringing the first vine stock to Australia from Spain and France). Wendouree has 28 acres of vines, all dry grown, meaning that they are not irrigated. Their stone winery and cellar dates from 1914, and remains almost unchanged, including original equipment.

The vineyard was initially purchased by Alfred Percy Birks (the same A. P. Birks from the label). His son Roly Birks took over in 1917. Roly retired in 1970 and sold the business, but after a rocky few years it was purchased by the family of the current custodians, Lita and Tony Brady. The Brady’s nursed the vineyard back to health and have been creating exceptional quality wine since.

Wendouree's 2015 Release

Muscat of Alexandria


Shiraz Malbec

Shiraz Mataro (Mourvedre)


Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Mataro (Mourvedre)

Posted: 10/08/2017
Chilean Natural Wine Tasting

We recently met with Lucy Kendall and Alice L’Estrange, two passionate women in wine bringing some of the very best Chilean wines to Australia.

Chile has a rich winemaking history stretching all the way back to the sixteenth century. It is also one of the few countries in the world not effected by the devastating phylloxera – a pest that ravaged European vines in the nineteenth century. Phylloxera still exists today (even in Australia, particularly Victoria) and there is no known cure.

Grapes such as Pais, Torontel, and Corinto are thought to have been brought to Chile by Spanish conquistadors and are now unique to Chile and cannot be found elsewhere. There are only a handful of producers that work with these ancestral varieties, working in traditional ways and against the big business of industrial agriculture present in contemporary Chile.

This masterclass offers an overview of the viticulture of Chile, focusing on sustainable agriculture, dry-grown vineyards, and fascinating varietals rarely seen in Australia.

Lucy and Alice will be hosting this masterclass; sharing their stories and enthusiasm for all things Chile.

 WHAT: Chilean Wine Masterclass with Lucy Kendall and Alice L'Estrange
WHERE: The Oak Barrel, 152 Elizabeth St, Sydney 2000
WHEN: Thursday August 31, 6:15pm for a 6:30pm start
PRICE: Members $30 / Non-Members $40

  We’ll be trying:

Yumbel (Bío Bío Valley) - Cacique Pipeño
Yumbel (Bío Bío Valley) - Cacique Naranjo, Moscatel/Corinto
Nacimiento (Bío Bío Valley) - Roberto Henriquez Pipeño País
Itata Valley - Roberto Henriquez Notro del Blanco Moscatel/Corinto/Semillon
Itata Valley - (Guarilihue) A Los Viñateros Bravos Moscatel/Semillon
Maule Valley - Huaso de Sauzal Carignan
Maule Valley - Gonzales Bastias Tinajas
Maule Valley - Gonzales Bastias Ramal, Pais, Moscatel Rosada/ Torontel
Maule Valley (Loncomilla) - Viña Maitia, Carignan/Pais/Cab Franc

Wines are subject to change due to unforeseen circumstances. Tickets are non-transferable and non-refundable.

Posted: 02/08/2017
Burgundy Masterclass with Alexandre Rougeot

Alexandre Rougeot is a fifth generation winemaker of Domaine Rougeot. Alexandre grew up in the Cote d'Or in Burgundy, in Meursault, and a few years ago he decided to come to Australia and build his own import company.  With such a name, he has access to a lot of good wine from Burgundy and having been raised on a vineyard, he will be the perfect host for this night, bringing all his stories and knowledge.

Burgundy through the years has built itself a solid name, as it is known for their excellent Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Aligoté and their food. There are lot of reasons why it is such a unique terroir, and we will get to discover them on the night. Burgundy has a higher number of appellations d'origine contrôlée (AOCs) than any other French region, making the wines from this little part of the world some the most expensive and rare bottles in the world.

 WHAT: Burgundy Masterclass with Alexandre Rougeot
WHERE: The Oak Barrel, 152 Elizabeth St, Sydney 2000
WHEN: Wednesday 9 August, 6.15pm for a 6.30pm start
PRICE: Members $50 / Non-Members $60

  We’ll be trying:

Samuel Billaud - Petit Chablis 2015
Charles Van Canneyt - Bourgogne Chardonnay 2014
Domaine Rougeot - Meursault “Sous la Velle” 2013
Charles Van Canneyt - Puligny-Montrachet 1er cru “Les Caillerets” 2015

Hudelot-Noellat - Bourgogne Passetoutgrain 2015

Charles Van Canneyt - Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2014
Yvon Clerget - Volnay 2015
Domaine Rougeot - Volnay 1er cru “Les Santenots” 2011 
Yvon Clerget Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru 2015 

Wines are subject to change due to unforeseen circumstances. Tickets are non-transferable and non-refundable.

Posted: 25/07/2017
By Farr 2017 Allocation

Each year we receive a very limited allocation of the truly stunning wines from the Farr family.

The Farr estate is located in the Moorabool Valley between Geelong and Ballarat, 100 kilometres southwest of Melbourne. Gary and Robyn Farr purchased the original property in 1994 and a second section in 1998 (the latter was left untouched for almost 40 years and filled with noxious weeds). Nick and Cassie Farr purchased their own part of the land in 2011, and their section links the two blocks of the family property which now totals 130 acres. 36 acres of the property are under vine, and the rest are maintained for cattle and horses.

Gary Farr has been making wine in Bannockburn for almost four decades. He honed his craft at wineries in Burgundy, Oregon, and California; and his wines are inspired by the expressions of Shiraz and Viognier found in the Rhone Valley. The reins have since been passed down to his son, Nick Farr. Nick worked alongside his father on the family estate before following a similar path with vintages in Oregon, California, Burgundy, and the Hunter Valley.

The Farr family describe this year’s vintage as one of their best, owing to balanced temperature and rainfall, particularly after the low yields of the previous vintage (2014). These wines are not commercial. Rather, the Farr’s are dedicated to the conception of terroir, creating wines that are an expression of the place they come from.

The By Farr wines are highly collectable and while they are fantastic to drink now, they will age beautifully.

This year’s allocation includes:

2016 By Farr Viognier (6 bottles)

From the vineyard: A lovely fresh and floral and subtle expression of Viognier. Fine light ginger notes, fresh white peach and apricot flavours as a young wine, which we believe will intensify over time. The palate is much finer than the 2015 and shows a ginger flavoured freshness with underlying mineral and a long, clean finish. This wine is delightful already but will benefit beautifully from 12 months of bottle ageing, as the acid softens.

2016 By Farr ‘Three Oaks’ Chardonnay (note: the ‘Three Oaks’ is the new name for the By Farr Chardonnay) (12 bottles)

From the vineyard: This year the Three Oaks has really bright minerality on the nose with fresh grapefruit and fine French oak. The palate is bright with crisp fruit flavour and structure. The firm acidity is long and focused. The texture is brighter and lighter than the 2015 and this is one of the most finessed that have been produced from the By Farr vineyard. Supurb fresh length.

2015 By Farr ‘Sangreal’ Pinot Noir (12 bottles)

From the vineyard: Each year the same descriptive notes come to mind for this wine; seductive, perfumed, seamless balance and moreish. It is a site that wavers very little in more difficult vintages and excels in great ones. This is the back bone of Wine By Farr. Once again the alluring characters of this site combined with red fruits, whole bunch, acidity, and oak have produced a beautifully interwoven expression of site and vintage. That’s what it’s all about for a near perfect vintage!

2015 By Farr Shiraz (6 bottles)

From the vineyard: The nose is spice with black pepper, mineral, learning toward earthy. Once again 4% Viognier was added to the wine to enhance the nose and soften the palate. The palate shows intense fruit, soft and long earthy tannins, and a clean, lingering and savoury finish. Drink now or cellar for 5 to 10 years.

We also have a few bottles left (and by few we really mean two) of last years vintage:

2015 By Farr Viognier (released 2016)

From the vineyard: A lovely perfumed, yet subtle expression of Viognier. Fresh peach and apricot flavours as a young wine, which we believe will intensify over time. The palate is more luscious than of late and shows a ginger-flavoured freshness with underlying power and long clean fresh finish. This wine is delightful already but will benefit beautifully from 12 months of bottle ageing, as the acid softens.

2014 ‘Farrside’ Pinot Noir (released 2016)

From the vineyard: Each vintage continues to show more masculinity, structure and savoury components than the other two Pinots (the ‘Sangreal’ and ‘Tout Pres’). Deep meaty, spicy and mineral are the flavours which continue to evolve Farrside as a site and wine. A balanced array of red and black fruits, it is fresh and edgy. A firm yet delicate wine with a long textured finish.

Posted: 20/07/2017
Final Exhibitors for the Oak Barrel Wine Fair 2017

We now know who is coming next week and we are super happy to have them here just for us. We nearly sold out so getting quick if you don’t want to miss it!

The Oak Barrel’s Boutique Wine Fair is back in 2017 and will take place Saturday 22 July!

To be held on site at the CBD store, The Wine Fair is all about discovering new wine, meeting people and perhaps putting a face to the winemakers of your existing favourite wines.

This year we've invited people that make the wines we love to drink. A lot of the exhibitors are organic or biodynamicminimal interventionpreservative free or no sulphite, most of them representing the new wave of Australia.

What's common between the winemakers and representatives is that they all give great care to what they producing or growing. We love supporting them, and so we'll be sharing their passion with you around a good glass (or a few)!

As well as a host of local producers, we've invited some of the country's top importers to showcase their latest vintages.

For this year's event we'll open up the tasting and back rooms of The Oak Barrel’s Sydney CBD wine destination.

When: Saturday July 22nd
Time: 3pm to 6pm
Where: The Oak Barrel, 152 Elizabeth St. Sydney CBD
Tickets: $30 for members; $40 for non-members.

Winemaker & Importer confirmed on show

Andrew from Good Intentions Wine Co. (Mount Gambier, SA)
Xavier (Mornington Peninsula)
Angus from Vinden (Hunter Valley)
Tom and Sally Belford from Bobar (Yarra Valley)
Alex from Hte Other Right (Adelaide)
Troy from Attwood 

Owen from Latta Vino (Geelong)
Tom from Swinging Bridge
Matt from Blood Moon
(Yarra Valley)
Jared from Jilly Wine
(New England)
Paul from Scorpo
Charlie from Virtuous Vine
Duan from Nebbia
Michael from Witches Falls

Mike from Domaine Thomson (New Zealand)
Sam from Mallaluka
Jane & Brian Freeman
(Clare Valley)
Giorgio from Giorgio De Maria Fun Wines
Brendan from Smallfry

The Oak Barrel’s Boutique Wine Fair is open to over 18s only and strict RSA regulations will apply. List of exhibitors may change due to unforeseen circumstances. We ask and expect all our punters to respect our Fair Play Policy (available here) and are sure that everyone will act like grown-up adults and have a thigh-slapping good time as a result. Tickets are non-transferable and non-refundable.

-Paul Hervy 

Posted: 12/07/2017
Dormilona's Very Limited Clayface Release

We can’t get enough of Dormilona wines. Josephine Perry completed her degree in Oenology (wine science) by correspondence, allowing her to complete vintages throughout France (Burgundy, Bordeaux, and the Rhone Valley), Australia, New Zealand, and North America. She spent several years managing two wineries in Spain (Galicia) and consulting to a winery in the Canary Islands before settling in Yallingup, Western Australia (north of Margaret River).

Dormilona means ‘lazybones’ in Spanish, a nickname she was given for going to bed early during her time in Spain (she liked to wake up early to surf). She now uses the name to represent her hands off approach to winemaking.

Jo was named Young Gun of Wine in 2016, only three years after releasing her first wines under the Dormilona label. The award was the first for a natural wine. Jo is part of a movement of young winemakers making natural wine in Western Australia, including Si Vintners and Blind Corner (alongside other wineries such as Cullen, Bunn, and La Violetta).

‘Clayface’ are Jo’s very limited project wines (we received a dozen of each) hand made in pure terracotta amphora pots. Earthenware vessels are porous, allowing the wine to breathe and giving a true expression of fruit (rather than the strong influence of oak). The grapes for each – Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon – are dry grown (unirrigated) from single vineyards. The vineyards are certified biodynamic and organic, and free from pesticides and fungicides. The wines have no additives, no filtration and are very minimal intervention. An absolute minimum amount of sulphur is added on bottling to preserve the wine.

The bottles themselves are stunning: heavily weighted, wax sealed and hand numbered, with Dia de Muertos style illustrations created by Tasmanian artist Sean Whelan.

Clayface Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
(864 bottles produced)

From the winery: dry grown (unirrigated) grapes from a single vineyard plot in Wallcliffe. Hand harvested, foot and hand stomped into terracotta pots. Hand plunged daily during wild fermentation then left on skins for six months with native malolactic fermentation. Basket pressed on a cold wintery day back to the amphora for maturation for three months. Hand bottled direct from the pots, sealed under cork with a wax top. No fining, no additives, no filtration, no pumping, no gas, only good old candle power & knuckle grease. Very minimal sulphur at the bottling process: this is to ensure no bottle variation & to eliminate any oxygen pick up.

Tasting notes: a powerful and aromatic wine. Dark berry fruits and rich tannins give this wine a lot of length. Drinking beautifully now but can be aged.

Clayface Chardonnay 2016
(658 bottles produced)

From the winery: dry grown from our little single vineyard block in Wallcliffe. Hand harvest and basket pressed straight into amphora. Wild ferment and natural malolactic fermentation. Hand bottled direct from pots, sealed under cork with wax top. No finings, no additives, no filtration, no pumping, no gas, no nothing really just a lotta love. Only very minimal sulphur at the bottling process to ensure no bottle variation and to eliminate any oxygen pick up.

Tasting notes: a full flavoured expression of Chardonnay with plenty of spice, citrus, and stone fruits. Great minerality and texture. Drinking beautifully now but can be aged.


Posted: 06/07/2017
Nights In Paris: The Oak Barrel Owner On Tour

I’m travelling in France this winter (already summer in Europe)…

Well, I’ve just been to Paris and can recommend two outstanding restaurants for both exceptional food and exceptional wines at affordable prices. The wines are affordable in relative terms, considering their age and the conditions where they have been kept.

The first restaurant belongs to a long-time friend who worked at the Oak Barrel in our early days of ownership, before returning to his native Paris to follow his passion in wine and food. Alex (seen above with yours truly) spent two years converting this restaurant into a truly great bistro downstairs and a degustation restaurant upstairs.

His cellar, which he has collected over many years, can be soon through the glass floor in the bistro. It’s priced fairy, as is the menu.

Some examples:

A must visit if in Paris:

The other restaurant may not need introduction, but both food and wine are excellent – with a wine list that you can afford to drink at their prices (but you cannot afford to buy at current auction prices).

I can’t remember the price but at the time it seemed very reasonable.

Alas I have to come home.

Posted: 05/07/2017
Great Value Nero d'Avola from Sicily


With the end of financial year approaching, we've select for you one of the best value Italian wines we have in store at the moment.

This Rosso from Alcamo in Sicily is an absolute bargain for wine lovers. Fresh, soft, savoury and plummy, it is certified organic and made by the Vasco family, who are expressing a different way of tasting Nero d’ Avola.

If you're used to drinking bigger and ripper styles of wine from this area, this is fresher and brighter. The fruit is picked early to retain acidity and freshness resulting in a bright, crunchy and satisfying wine. 

Ciello Nero d'Avola Rosso 2015 (Click on bottle to purchase)

“The Vasco family took over this historic winery on the Marsala waterfront about 10 years ago and in that time have converted their 100 hectares of vineyards to organics. The vineyards themselves are located in the sandy hills of Alcamo, 150-300 metres above sea level, inland from Marsala, and about half way as the crow flies to Palermo."  (Importer notes).


Posted: 28/06/2017