YARRA in Bordeaux

By Margaret Barca

24 Jun, 2024

Writer Margaret Barca recently visited YARRA, a wine bar in Bordeaux that combines sense of place, a fascinating wine list and a dose of laid-back Australian style.

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Aaron Skovell, fresh-faced in a peaked cap and black t-shirt, looks as though he’d be right at home in a wine bar in inner-city Melbourne or Sydney. In fact, he’s in the heart of one of the world’s most famous wine districts, in one of the world’s most famous wine regions – Bordeaux. 

YARRA is a cave à manger (a wine cellar where you can also dine) in Bordeaux’s ancient Chartrons wine-merchant quarter. Aaron and his Bordeaux-born wife, viticulturist and business partner, Albane, bring experience and passion to their wine bar. 

Albane trained in viticulture before moving to Australia, where she worked at Lethbridge Wines in Geelong, Victoria and at St Hallett in the Barossa Valley, before meeting Aaron. Aaron cut his teeth on the Mornington Peninsula, working at several boutique wineries, along with M. Chapoutier in Heathcote. Together they travelled overseas, explored wineries and worked at Faust Wines in California’s famed Napa Valley, and at Lammershoek in South Africa before returning to Bordeaux.

Aaron SkovellYARRA's Aaron Skovell.

“We have experimental wines, conservatively made wines, biodynamic and sulphur-free wines,” explains Aaron. “We have a significant Australian collection, in fact about 30–35 per cent of our wines are international. And then we seek out alternative or interesting wine types in Bordeaux and French regions.”

Aaron and Albane are as keen to introduce the Bordelaise locals to international wines as they are to share Bordeaux and other wines with visitors.

At first, the Bordelaise weren’t keen to drink local wines. Aaron says they would choose wines from just a little further afield – from the Rhône district or further south-west region. “They wouldn’t touch any international wines – not even Spanish.”

But that has gradually changed as the couple shared their knowledge, introduced more varieties and expanded their offering. They don’t have a wine list as such. “We just have the wines on the shelf. People can see for themselves.

“We want to be hospitable, and we want the wines and experience to be accessible.” The couple meet with winemakers and find out their philosophy, so that they can share that with their customers. 

YARRA charcuterieCharcuterie at YARRA.

An evening at YARRA Bordeaux wine bar

On a cool Sunday evening in late spring we share some fine wines, including a 2012 Château Bellegrave, Pomerol (a luscious blend of merlot and cabernet franc) and test the menu at YARRA. How lucky are we!

The wine bar is a long, narrow space with historic stone walls, rugs on the floor, and an industrial-style bar with stools. At the back it’s cosier, with small tables opening to a leafy courtyard. It’s eclectic, modern but timeless. In summer, tables spill onto the terrace in front of the lofty neoclassical columns of the 1835 Temple des Chartrons.

While premium wines are available by the glass, including Australian high-end wines, there are also very quaffable wines. YARRA's Australian selection includes: Mac ForbesColdstream Pinot Noir; Ten Minutes by Tractor 10X Chardonnay and the 10X Pinot Noir; Torbreck Vintners’ Old Vines GSM and The Factor Shiraz; and Tyrrell’s Hunter Valley Semillon.

The menu is seasonal, local, and a mix of small plates that span traditional to on-trend. There are cheeses, (we're in France, after all!), charcuterie (such as truffled mortadella) and pâté, alongside oysters with ponzu pearls, peated whiskey and a scattering of black pepper, and hummus is served with za’atar and pistachio. Grilled asparagus is topped with goat’s milk burrata, macadamia and wild garlic pesto. And then there are the favourite pulled-pork sliders.

YARRA is as varied, intriguing and moreish as the wine list – a winning blend of French and foreign.

You can make your booking for YARRA Bordeaux here.