When it comes to the wine bar, few cities do it better than Melbourne. From inner city laneways to suburban shopping strips, we’ve got every cosy corner covered. Just add food.
City Wine Shop
Owner Con Christopoulos specialises in creating unique, pitch-perfect settings for his empire of venues, and City Wine Shop is the exemplar of the Italian wine bar-slash-food pit stop. With pale green tiles, shelves of covetable vino (to enjoy in-house for a corkage fee, or at home) and a smashable by-the-glass selection, it’s a paean to all the good things in life.
159 Spring Street
Image: Tessa Kelly
The saloon-like Russell Street digs of Carlton’s Town Mouse crew has been kicking goals since it opened a smidge over a year ago. From a natural-leaning wine selection that will convert even die-hard cynics, to a wood oven and grill making dishes of rare beauty (rainbow trout with purslane and horseradish, we’re looking at you) Embla puts together a killer package.
122 Russell Street
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A golden oldie at 22 years of age, Punch Lane delivers on booze (the list is as deep and wide as Port Phillip Bay) and food (the one-page menu makes everything count, from charcuterie to venison tartare and a twice-baked gruyere soufflé). But above all, this old timer has oodles of Euro-leaning style.
43 Little Bourke Street
When two long-time Rockpool sommeliers open their own gaff, Melbourne sits up and takes notice. Comptoir is the ideal neighbourhood wine bar-slash-bottle shop. More than 250 bottles are on the list – drink in-house for a small corkage fee or take home – while the by-the-glass selection is small but punchy. Snack-tastic food (charcuterie, cheese, terrine) completes a very fine package.
60 Stanley Street, Collingwood
Image: Gareth Sobey
A late addition to his oversubscribed all-day Flinders Lane mothership Cumulus Inc, Andrew McConnell’s Cumulus Up mightn’t have the most imaginative name in the game but it’s certainly its own beast. Think a short but adventurous wine program by the glass, covering natural, orange and conventional bases, and typically adventurous yet delicious McConnell food.
Level 1, 45 Flinders Lane
Irreverence rules the day at this gently anarchic Fitzroy bar where whiskey is dispensed from a model Thunderbird and the wine program takes the road less travelled. Co-owner and sommelier of Bar Liberty, Banjo Harris-Plane, will convert the deepest skeptic to his minimal-intervention ways, and the food – including the addictive mussel dip dusted in lovage powder on potato crisps – is also a headline act.
234 Johnston Street, Fitzroy
So Italian it hurts, this local Northcote favourite is all exposed red bricks and a comfortable nonna (or should that be nonno?) vibe. Housed in the former fruit shop run by owner and sommelier David Carlei’s equally wine-obsessed great-grandfather, the front bar is lined with Oz, Italian and globetrotting bottles with a biodynamic bent. Grab one to go – but better still, order a pizza and drink in-house.
83 High Street, Northcote
Heartattack and Vine
It’s named after the Tom Waits album, just in case you’re wondering. Part of the revival bringing sexy back to Melbourne’s Little Italy on Lygon Street, H&V bases its charms on the morning-to-late café/bars anchoring Italian life. The wine list leans the same, with a subset in vermouth, while food is based around cicchetti, the Venetian answer to tapas; think meatballs, baccala, and chicken liver parfait.
329 Lygon Street, Carlton
Image: Lisa Cohen
Bar di Stasio
There are few Melbourne places as storied as Café Di Stasio, and the arrival of Bar Di Stasio a few years back only added to the allure. Prop at the high bar in the Robert Simeoni-designed room with its Callum Morton red scaffolding installation, peruse the wine list and get stuck into a Negroni sbagliato or maybe try a glass of something from Di Stasio’s own vineyard.
31 Fitzroy Street, St Kilda
Kirk’s Wine Bar
Another Christopoulos production, this one tucked into a Parisian corner on recently revitalised Little Bourke Street. It’s a confident joint that feels older than its relatively young years, thanks to a deliberate patina of age. The vino program is Euro-leaning – the bistro-style menu, too. There are no bookings, naturellement, so be prepared to fight the crowds.
Corner Hardware Lane and Little Bourke Street
Top image: Lisa Cohen
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