Australia's largest celebration of NSW wine is back once again, with a brand new groove. The best of the best join together for a weekend-long festival of vinous fun, from grape stomping and free cheese (free! Cheese! Woo!) to wine-inspired gelato. Grab a picnic blanket and a very luxurious sausage sandwich, and celebrate the diverse wine regions of our state.
Channel Lucille Ball and squish grapes with your bare feet
If you ever entertained the idea of donning a headscarf and getting barefoot in a barrel full of grapes, this is your chance. Mudgee, in particular this year, has really concentrated on showing Sydneysiders what the region is all about, bringing the rich area to life with an interactive wine-squishing experience. Gather a posse and get knee-deep in grapes and grape juice as you experience the real deal of winemaking at its very core in purpose-built oak barrels. Saturday or Sunday between 11.30am-12.30pm or 3.30pm-4.30pm.
Eat the world's most luxurious sausage sandwich
There's plenty on offer on the food front at Sydney Cellar Door, including crowd favourites Gelato Messina and Newtown fun diner Bloodwood. Hoy Pinoy are also joining the fray with their unforgettable Filipino barbecue (seriously – they're responsible for making Hyde Park smell so amazing every year at the Night Noodle Market). But did you know the crew from Porteno – everybody's favourite Argentinian barbecue kings – are appearing with a house-made sausage sandwich covered in grilled peppers and chimichurri? Ay, ay, ay.
Make this the one time you order the Uber Lux
You know you've thought about it before. Imagine how badass you'd be pulling up to Hyde Park for Sydney Cellar Door in a stretch limo. If that's reaching a little too far for the stars, take a trip on Sydney's finest. St James and Museum are the closest stations and every bus worth its salt stops somewhere in the vicinity.
BYO is great. Any time but now
If you're toying with the idea of bringing your own Riedel glasses and conducting a private parkside tasting, think again. As fun as that sounds, all wine poured over the weekend goes straight into the tasting glasses provided. But this year, they're stemless, and you get to keep them at the end of your visit. Three cheers for a souvenir that goes hand in hand with a whole lot of delicious wine.
Travel the state of NSW without leaving Sydney
You heard us. This is your chance to try wines from at least 67 wineries without leaving the confines of Hyde Park. Wine-soaked delights from the likes of Bunnamagoo and Di Lusso in Mudgee, Logan and Ross Hill and Brokenwood and Mount Pleasant in the Hunter will be on offer, to name just a bare few. How many times can you say you've travelled from the Hunter Valley to Orange and Mudgee on foot in the middle of the Sydney CBD? Not many, if any.
Meet the man behind Australia's first urban vineyard
Come early March, Alex Retief will be the wine boss at Australia's first large-scale city-based winery in St Peters hotspot, District 75. But for now, meet the man behind the ambitious plan at Sydney Cellar Door, where he'll be busting out all his classic drops, and maybe even a few newbies, at the A. Retief stand.
Eat all the free cheese
It's real. It's a fact. It's free cheese. This year, Castello has set up a cheese bar and offers to match any wine you've bought to one of their cheeses. Add some cheesy dance-floor bangers from their resident DJ and it seems like a perfect excuse to try a whole flight.
Gelato Messina are creating four new flavours, just for the weekend
Jonesing for an icy treat after all that wine? Messina has you covered. The kings of sweet, icy kook are back with four brand-new creations, made just for Sydney Cellar Door. Three will be wine-based, and one will be cider-inspired, plus there'll be two of the old favourites just in case you can't let go.
Get on yer bike
Wine giftware store Vintopia will be making its first appearance at Cellar Door this year, offering, among many other wine-inspired gifts, a very attractive leather bicycle wine rack, designed and handmade in Canada. What better way to make your Tokyo Bike look just that little bit more like Smith Journal brought to life? Just add Pet. Nat.
Have a free massage
Smooth FM's chillout area just got a little more relaxing with the addition of free massage. Kick back on a beanbag, grab a glass of Tumbarumba chardonnay and de-stress.
Drink in some art
Rosby Wines is providing the sculptures that will be showcased in the Mudgee Region activation area. During Sydney Cellar Door, Sculptures in the Garden (a Mudgee exhibition in October) will showcase works from Alex Scheibner and David Doyle in the Mudgee Region area.
Fake it till you make it: a bluffer's guide to drinking wine
Tom Ward, Swinging Bridge Winery's head honcho, shares a few insider tips to help you get the most out of Sydney Cellar Door. And, more importantly, drinking wine like a boss.
Make sure your young reds are bright and vibrant. Older reds will start to go duller but you'll find them smoother in the mouth. Young whites should be clearer in colour and as they age you'll see them yellow in appearance.
What's on the nose
Wine is all about the whole experience – you should be able to smell what you're tasting, whether that's barnyard, fresh-cut grass or freshly plucked violets.
Young doesn't mean dumb ...
Look for young and fresh aromatic whites such as sauvignon blanc and pinot gris that should have fresh fruit flavours on the nose and a beautiful crisp palate.
… but sometimes age is a good thing
In aged wines, make sure the colours are bright, with nice soft tannins ready for drinking.
Keep an eye out for ...
Look for aged semillons – one of the true great wines of the world. Also keep an eye out for NSW pinot noirs, which are fresh and fruity and really starting to punch above their weight. If you want to see why people rave about Hunter shiraz, try those from 2013 and 2014. And take note: the Anything But Chardonnay (ABC) trend is now gone. Chardonnay is well on-trend, especially the styles of NSW.
Sydney Morning Herald Cellar Door, Hyde Park, free entry, February 26-28. Tastings $5-$30, includes stemless glass and can be pre-purchased online to beat the queue.