We all have those friends we consider ‘in the know’, the ones we go to for advice on all manner of things. There’s that cool, muso friend who is always up to date with the best gigs, or that well-connected pal who is all about the nightlife and can get your name on the door at any club, and don’t forget your buddy who is all about craft beer.
These are the mates we turn to when we need the inside scoop on food, drinks, events and entertainment and here at Boutiq we want to know what your mates rate! Each month, we’ll be featuring a new mate (potentially one of yours!) and asking them to share their expert knowledge with the Boutiq community.
Enter Florent Bouvier, the go-to wine expert around Sydney.
“Wine lets you travel, not necessarily physically but good wines have a way of showing you their region of origin.”
It’s been seven years since Florent Bouvier first arrived in Australia and the French native now calls North Bondi home, but no matter where he is in the world, he has a knack for discovering the best wine bars around.
It probably helps that he works in the industry - Florent represents a winery from Bordeaux in the Australia Pacific region, but he puts his knowledge down to passion rather than profession. “Wine is something that brings people together,” he says, “it’s a topic of conversation in itself and being able to work with French wines allows me to keep in touch with my home country.”
Bondi didn’t always appeal to Florent - in fact his first impressions were less than satisfactory, “I thought it was a cheap version of Venice Beach!” he laughs, before assuring us that he has since reconsidered - “What eventually won me over was the cafes, the shops and the food offerings. Everything is right on the beach, it’s really a luxury, I love being near the beach but with most of the city attractions.”
If you’re after the lowdown on some of Sydney’s best wine bars, Florent has the 411 and there are a number of things he looks for in a wine bar, though he most often finds himself gravitating towards bars with a European feel. “Where I go depends on my mood, the day of week, my location and who I’m with.” He says.
“The feeling of the place, the atmosphere, is very important, as is the quality of the wine, the service and the food they offer. The music should be very rhythmic - I find reggae, blues and jazz works well and a good wine bar needs to be quite intimate - you can’t offer nice, personalised service if you seat hundreds of people.”
So without further ado, here they are - Florent’s Top Five Mates Rates!
10 William - Paddington
“The atmosphere is definitely one of the strengths here. Paddington already has a good atmosphere but at 10 William it’s really like going to wine bar in Italy or the South of France. It’s small, with two floors, colourful Italian waiters, close tables. What qualifies the European atmosphere here is the busy-ness, everyone is jolly and enjoying their wine. The fitout is quaint, like an old victorian house and the food is great.
121BC - Surry Hills
“Another wine bar with an Italian feel. It’s one big communal table (24 seater), quite minimal but the vibe is still super European. 121BC is always buzzing. What I really love is the quality of the wine - they took the gamble to go full-on Italian wine whereas other places usually have a mixed selection. There’s also the cellar wall feature, where you can buy a bottle to have at the bar, in case wines by the glass don’t appeal. The service is excellent, they are really considerate and passionate and will explain which wines will work best, depending on what you like. At 121BC the food offering is all about fresh produce, very Italian, very simple.”
Continental Deli Bar Bistro - Newtown
“Think cheese fridge and cured meat-hangings, the name gives a good indication. This one feels like a little deli. Continental is run by the same guys that run Porteño, Bodega and Gardel’s Bar, really popular joints in Sydney. The waiters are fantastic, the food, again, is all about fresh produce, and they have a groovy wine list and cocktails. It’s a unique offering in the area, still with the Euro feel but with a classic Newtown hipster vibe.”
Hickson’s Food & Wine - Walsh Bay
“When it comes to wine bars, I find it really hard to find a view and an exciting wine offering in Sydney. One I’ve discovered that I find doesn’t appear in many guides is Hickson’s Food and Wine. It’s located in Walsh Bay, just off the rocks, a super cool area. It can be hard to get seating here, so I’d recommend booking ahead (it’s one of the few wine bars that allows bookings). They do amazing wines and it’s almost like a kiosk, facing the harbour at Walsh Bay. It’s a great place during the warmer months (so most of the time in Sydney) and for me, the attraction is the wine, the view and the location.”
Monopole - Potts Point
Potts Point has a great dining precinct, it pulls a slightly older crowd, and the team at Monopole are extremely serious about both food and wine. Owned by the people behind Bentley Restaurant + Bar, Monopole is quite impressive. The sommeliers are great and it’s a place I tend to take business partners and friends who share my love of wine. It’s quite fun with really good wine and food, a place to go if you don’t want to spend hours at a restaurant.”
We had one last question for Florent and for someone who favours so many different drops, he found it difficult to answer - we wanted to know which wine, the world over, he’d choose to drink for his last supper if he were on death row - deep, we know, and his answer was just as well considered.
“I’m not going to tell you that I want a super iconic wine I’ve never had before… I would have to find a wine that I have an affinity with, that I share a story with. I’d go to a region closer to home (he was born in Marseilles), to a small producer there in the Rhône Valley, quite mystical. The winery is Chateau Rayas, and I’d love a last sip of his great vintage, say 1990, Chateau Rayas Rouge.” We’ll cheers to that!
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