Sparkling Sydney is one festival I’m almost loath to talk about after attending their inaugural event last weekend.
You see, this celebration of all things boozy and bubbly that took place in Pyrmont’s Pirrama Park, was actually the perfect size.
The queues were reasonable, the waterfront location wasn’t marred by cyclone fencing or crowd control barricades, and every time I loaded up with food and drinks, there was room at a table to share.
Sparkling Sydney was an opportunity to taste over sixty sparkling wines from local and international wineries. The basic wine tasting package - a branded glass and four tickets – set us back twenty bucks apiece, with extra tickets at $3.50 each.
At most stalls, including Direct Wine Cellars, a single ticket buys a 50ml taste from their range; which here included the Calappiano 18 Carat Pinot Noir Rose in a glamorous, shiny pink bottle.
Food products, from gourmet items like smoked garlic and French saucisson, to things you could eat in situ, like eclairs and dumplings, were all done as direct cash sales.
As the whole site was licensed, it was fun to wander the stalls with a taster in hand. From the Redback Wines stall presenting cool climate wines from the King Valley, we kicked off with the Redbank Ellora Vintage Chardonnay Pinot Noir 2014 that impressed with creamy cashew and grapefruit notes.
It was easily bested by the 2017 Mount Majura Silurian. I visited this cool climate, Canberra District winery on the outskirts of the Canberra's CBD earlier this year and was very impressed with their tempranillo.
Their fresh and zesty sparkling, whose name is a nod to the vineyard’s geology that dates back to the Silurian period, was dry and hunger inducing, so it saw us crawling the food stalls looking for something to eat. Passing over Taiwanese pork and chive dumplings from Pyrmont stalwart, Blue Eye Dragon, we settled upon the charismatic Italians at Sir Knuckle & Co.
The attractive burgundy van produces one thing only – gnocchi – and dishes it up with three different sauces.
What could be better than Creamy Gnocchi ($15) with gorgonzola and walnuts at soaking up a belly full of wine? Dusted with plentiful chilli flakes, it was fast, warm and satisfying, even if their profit margins did make me wince a little.
The best thing I put in my mouth all day was a Mimosa Rocks oyster, delivered straight from the hands of oyster farmer John Blankenstein to my mouth.
You'll find his oyster lease in the Mimosa Rocks National Park on the edge of Wapengo Lake, an area where only eleven people are lucky enough to live across two tributaries that run into the lake. No people means no pollution, and you can certainly taste the pristine environment in these beautiful oysters.
At Sparkling Sydney, Blankenstein was offering up freshly shucked Oysters ($24/6) and was more than happy to answer any questions I peppered at him while he was prising open their tightly sealed shells.
Blankenstein reckons the sweetness you taste in his three-and-a-half-year-old oysters comes from the adductor muscles that open and close the top and bottom shells. Whatever it is, I'm keen to get myself some more of it, via the Signature Oyster Market website that can arrange delivery of his oysters across Australia.
Oysters marry up with Tasmanian sparkling very nicely, so I was unsurprised to see a queue across the way at The Ridge North Lilydale. They’re a small wine producer with vineyards in the north east of Launceston – a wine region you might be better acquainted with via one of their more famous neighbours, Clover Hill Wines.
I tried The Ridge NV Sparkling Rosé, a slightly savoury blend of pinot noir, pinot meunier and Chardonnay, with a lovely salmon pink colour and lovely fine bead (bubbles). It's pretty impressive for a wine with a first vintage in 2016 made from pinot noir vines that were only planted in 2013.
For something a bit more frivolous, the Bellini Cipriani Bar, were pouring a Bellini Cipriani pre-mix.
Based upon the 1940s cocktail creation crafted by Guiseppe Cipriani at Harry’s Bar in Venice, this blend of Prosecco and Mediterranean white peach with the pulp left in, proved to be refreshing and easy to drink.
I spent a lot of time in the the Fever-Tree Gin and Tonic Garden Bar, where Fever-Tree and Adelaide Hills Distillery collaborated to teach festival-goers a bit more about matching tonic and gin.
The best thing I tried was the highly acclaimed Green Ant Gin mixed with Fever-Tree Elderflower Tonic with a thyme, lime and green ant garnish. The ant tastes a bit like lime and coriander.
The gin is quite lovely with a simple set of Australian botanicals than include pepper berry, finger lime and lemon myrtle.
I bought a bottle immediately to take home so I could try it as a martini with dry vermouth and a lemongrass garnish to enhance the botanicals in the gin. For an afternoon sundowner, the Adelaide Hills Distillery’s 78 Degree Sunset Gin employs rosella and strawberry gum for a pretty blend with a hint of pine that goes well with Fever-Tree Aromatic Tonic.
I enjoyed sipping mine with some salumi and cheese. The salumi came courtesy of Goose on the Loose, who have a factory in North Richmond.
The best meat I put in my mouth was their Duck Salami ($20/333grams) made with duck, pork loin and juniper.
I also tried a kangaroo salami and a bright orange chorizo flavoured with smoked paprika against cheeses by the Hunter Valley Cheese Factory.
It was not a bad way to drown our post-election sorrows on a Sunday afternoon, and I am already looking forward to next year!
Pirrama Park, Pyrmont
Ph: (0410) 338 331