Image credit: Caroline McCredie
Copains Bar a Vin, NSW1/12
The name means “friends” in French and odds are you’ll spot two pals – Morgan McGlone (ex-Belles Hot Chicken) and Nathan Sasi (formerly at Nomad and Mercado) – behind the pans or on the floor of this Surry Hills corner bar. Inside glasses, you’ll find well-chosen, Euro-leaning drops and you might hear dad-vibe Hall & Oates on the stereo. Just like hanging out at a mate’s place.
Image credit: Matt Dunne
Pencilmark Wine Room, Vic2/12
Image credit: Jess Kearney
Bar Heather, NSW3/12
You can treat Bar Heather in Byron Bay like a proper sit-down restaurant or a place to pop into for a cheeky glass of natural pinot noir and venison tartare with gnocco fritto. Owned by wine importers James Audas and Tom Sheer, with food by Ollie Wong-Hee (ex-Sixpenny and Ester in Sydney), it has a tonne of character and cred.
Bar Francine, Qld4/12
A hallmark of a good wine bar is a sense of spontaneity; it should feel like you can call in at the end of the weekend – without a booking – to ward off the Sunday Scaries with a glass of picpoul and a little brandade on toast. Bar Francine in Brisbane’s West End keeps walk-in tables free to help make that Monday transition a little easier.
Natural wine and food cooked over fire – there’s something about that combo that feels earthy and honest. Clover in Melbourne’s Richmond, with its handsome stained-glass window frontage and pretty, ivy-draped courtyard, celebrates both these things in equal measure, with a sprinkle of Parisian bonhomie. Wine maestro Lyndon Kubis has numerous bottles on the go at any time so you’ll always find something that piques your interest.
Image credit: Kahii Kiasaten Wine Bar
There’s no law that says the wine world has to be dominated by Europe and its colonial offshoots. Kahii in Sydney’s CBD is an intriguing combination of a kissaten – a Japanese-style coffee house – during the day and a Japanese-inflected wine bar at night. In its after-dark format there’s a largely French list (though Australia features, too), with Japanese snacks prepared by nearby restaurant Kuro.
The team from Tasmania’s pioneering Stefano Lubiana Wines has opened a Hobart showcase for their own products that also features the very best drops from the rest of the island state, the mainland and beyond. The ever-changing chalkboard by-the-glass list – usually about 15 wines at any time – might include a McLaren Vale grenache, a Piedmontese barbaresco and a local riesling, just for starters. Pair your choice with delicate bites, such as farinata with XO sauce.
Come for the natural wines and we can all but guarantee you’ll stay for the food, which might be a club sandwich or a plate of Mexican-inflected amberjack crudo. Casa in Mount Hawthorn loves a collab and has previously held one-off dinners featuring Melbourne chefs Rosheen Kaul from Etta and Bar Liberty’s Casey Wall.
Image credit: Nearly Wine Bar
Adelaide does a very nice line in petite, neighbourly wine bars – hardly surprising when several of the country’s best wine regions are on the city’s doorstep. This matesy, walk-ins-only spot (179 Hindley Street) focuses almost entirely on South Australian drops from small, minimal-intervention producers such as Adelina, Brave New Wine and Bink. The snacks are low-key, including simple cheese and salumi plates.
Image credit: Paranormal Wines
Paranormal Wines, ACT10/12
You’ll find the best of the Canberra region’s cool-climate vino on the tight by-the glass list at this super-chilled joint in Campbell. But these guys don’t play only on their own patch; there are lo-fi options from the rest of Australia and around the globe, to pair with snacks from Sydney’s LP’s Quality Meats and anchovy toast soldiers.
Wines of While, WA11/12
Every wine poured at this Perth wine store and bar is natural, fuss-free and made by smallscale producers from all over the world. Food is equally simple but just as thoughtful: perhaps a couple of “ice” mackerel – a lesser-known fish – served with a pil pil sauce or a delicate smoked eel and kohlrabi salad.