13 May 2024

Contentious Character Urban Winery brings cellar door chic to Fyshwick

| Lucy Ridge
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man holding wine bottle

Contentious Character Urban Winery has opened in Fyshwick. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Local Winery Contentious Character is bringing the ‘cellar door’ concept to the city with its new venue at the Dairy Road precinct in Fyshwick. The urban winery is a combination cafe, restaurant and wine bar, with the owners using the space to showcase their wines without the need for a country drive.

Visiting for drinks one evening, Contentious Character’s winemaker and co-owner Jeremy Wilson takes us through a tasting with accompanying tapas elements to complement each wine.

We start with Priscilla Queen of the Pinot Gris – Contentious Character has fabulous names for each wine – which is dangerously quaffable and would be perfect on a summer’s day. And we enjoy the pairing of dried fig with the Viva La Verdelho, which has a bright tropical aroma.

tasting platter

Wine flights come with matching tapas. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

We have a great conversation with Jeremy about the changing popularity of Chardonnay. Younger drinkers are embracing a fresher, unoaked style rather than the old-school, buttery style aged in oak. Contentious Character makes both and it’s interesting to compare the fresh Chardy Party with the 18-month oaked Premium Chardonnay, especially when Jeremy has us drink from different shaped glasses.

Specialty Chardonnay glasses, he explains, are wider and allow the wine to linger at the front of your palette. Riesling glasses, by contrast, are narrower and deliver the wine to the back of your palette. This helps to counteract Riesling’s natural acidity.

woman sniffing wine

Region food writer Lucy Ridge hard at work! Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Alongside the wines, there is a board with tapas-style dishes like goat’s cheese, charcuterie and cured fish; each bite is carefully selected to complement a specific wine. We also ordered a few snacky entree dishes to share, and we particularly enjoyed Chef Andy Park’s Szechuan calamari with harissa mayo and arancini balls.

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Moving to the red wines, we taste a fruity shiraz and a richly tannic merlot, which would be great pairings for a big, juicy steak like the Angus Sirloin on the menu.

wine glass

Contentious Character was previously based in Wamboin. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Co-owner and managing director Ben Jarrett also offers us a taste of a back vintage Shiraz and a newer Holy Shiraz: so-called because when he and Jeremy tasted it, they said, “holy sh*t, that’s good!”

READ ALSO Five minutes with Ben Jarrett, Contentious Character

Contentious Character’s wines are made with grapes sourced from six vineyards, which allows them to access different climate characteristics, like the warmer-climate Cabernet grapes from Mudgee and cool-climate grapes from Wamboin (where their cellar door was formerly located).

plates of food

The arancini balls are a great snack or come early for breakfast. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

In addition to the wine flights, they have a full lunch and dinner menu and will soon launch breakfast. And yes, you can order champagne for breakfast — with or without orange juice!

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The urban winery is an innovative concept, and the Contentious Character team is clearly very proud of its wines. This space promises to allow more Canberrans the chance to experience them and is another great addition to the increasingly cool Dairy Road precinct.

wine bottles on display

Contentious Character also has a range of spirits. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Contentious Character Urban Winery is located at Building 4, 1 Dairy Road, Fyshwick. They are open seven days a week: Sunday to Wednesday from 7 am to 7 pm, and Thursday to Saturday from 7 am until late. Visit the website to book in, or follow them on Facebook or Instagram.

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