The best wine bars Melbourne has to offer
To drink at Liberty is to revel in the best of all booze. The only rule about each drop here is that it must be a superlative example of its style. Whether it’s wine, cider, cocktails, whisky, vermouth or even housemade soda, every item on the long menu is carefully curated, the variety and quality on offer hard to overstate.
Ten years since its inception, this snug bar still sets the benchmark for neighbourhood boozing, with charismatic staff, handpicked imports by the glass and a menu that, like the wine list, draws heavily from Europe.
As much a restaurant as it is a wine bar, Carlton Wine Room comes to you from three industry veterans who have worked under the McConnell and Bartholomew empires. Upstairs is reserved for serious diners, but the front bar and street seating is open for you to drop in for a glass or a cocktail. It gets a little hairy once the sun sets, so strategise or you could be left waiting for a seat.
Is Embla a wine bar? That’s a quintessentially Melbourne question of existential proportions. Anyone wanting to humour their assertion could simply point to a wine list that changes like a chameleon and where low-interventionism is the north star. It’s the kind of list where the words “organic” and “bio-dynamic” are only a sommelier away, but fear not: the strike rate here is far higher than at similarly ethosed places.
This classic Andrew McConnell venue has some natural advantages over any competitors. For one thing, sharing the vast cellar of Cutler & Co means Marion can lay claim to being the best-stocked wine bar in the 'hood, but in reality there’s no need to venture beyond the shorter list purpose-built for Marion, stuffed with all kinds of vinous excitement by the glass.
The great thing about having a wine bar attached to a casual fine-diner with a cracking cellar is that you get access to all of it, but in a more relaxed and social environment. You’d be forgiven for thinking the big, leather bound list at Cumulus Up is full of untouchable museum bottles. Not so. Flipping through, you’ll find a long but impressively engaging and easy to use guide to wine varietals.
The City Wine Shop makes for a great long fancy lunch, however, the price tag here is incredibly reasonable for a place whose neighbours include Melbourne institutions The Supper Club and The European. The staff here are wine connoisseurs and they want to talk wine. It’s a great spot for an outside lunch or an indoor wine haunt when you want to hide from the elements.
Amid all the mediocre pasta and manhandling, the warm glow of Kirk’s Wine Bar shines extra bright. Years have passed, but it feels as essential as ever, proving that a classic wine bar, done well, never goes out of fashion. Their list is as deep as it is broad, paying respect to all the old-world staples before giving equal ardour to trailblazing makers like Radikon and local innovators like Memento Mori.
The Moon feels more like the VIP room of a nightclub or a sleek cocktail lounge than a wine bar, but that's part of its charm. Along one long wall, beautifully labelled take-away bottles are lit like art in a gallery. The list of wines by the glass is a good balance of approachable and more out-there natural stuff, with a slant towards Alsatian styles.
Climb the stairs to the first-floor bar and restaurant to discover a clubby, handsome space of vintage bar stools, tapestry and brass. Take your time perusing a 20-page wine list, peppered with natural beauties, impressive imports and little-known locals. Minimal-intervention, biodynamic and organic wines form the backbone of this commendable selection.
You'd be forgiven for thinking Congress is a restaurant rather than a wine bar, considering their pigs head sandwich was one of the most sought-out snacks of 2018. But, they encourage carefree drinking through their wine list featuring large, classic producers of austere wines nestled amongst some trendy, local producers from the Adelaide Hills.
The cafe-to-wine-bar category has been growing strong over the last few years, but the one to beat everyone to the punch is Napier Quarter. Their any-time-of-day anchovy and egg toast bridges the gap between breakfast and light, drinking snack. Wines of the day are scrawled along the wall, and if you're after a particular something, just speak to any of the well-versed staff.
It’s a brave thing to open a wine bar across the street from Neighbourhood Wine, and a couple of blocks from Gerald’s Bar. But Little Andorra in Carlton North has proven itself worthy, carving out its own identity and nailing the cosy neighbourhood style in an area heavy on options.
Care is the number one factor in this quaint little wine bar. Atlas Vinifera has invested money in its compelling and incredibly well-stocked shelves, it has invested time in staff training, and it has a highly functional space while remaining entirely independent. It operates as a retail store as well, so expect a lot of foot traffic, an inordinate amount of regulars and even more cheers.
Mark Hopkinson and Lyndon Kubis have worked their magic on an old milk bar on Commercial Road, turning the skinny terrace into a sexy slip of a wine bar. Along the wall, some 400 wines, largely boutique Australians and interesting importsare available for you to drink in or take away.
Westwood is no ordinary wine bar; they open for breakfast to serve you coffee and toasted sandwiches, lunchtime brings baguettes into the mix, and dinner comes from the inventive hands of Rhys Bennett (Dinner by Heston). There are usually around 10 wines by the glass, all hovering around or below $15 from small, local producers- oft-changing and ever-interesting.
A wine cellar in a terrace house sounds better suited to the leafy back streets of Fitzroy or East Brunswick, but Milton Wine is smack, bang in the middle of the high-priced burbs. The tram stops right out front, casually ushering you into a library of wines from Australia and Europe (with a bit of a skew towards Italy).
Local wines, cheese toasties and hyper-local beers are trademarks of this seductive, wine bar championing all-Australian wines in the inner north.
This low-lit, Iberian-style wine bar keeps things deceptively simple and very comfortable, so it is easy to find yourself glued to a stool all night or talking to a regular who makes you feel like you've just walked into their lounge room. Drink from a wine list that reads like an 18 year-old’s gap year hit list with most of Central and Western Europe getting a look in, plus a whole lot of Victorian drops leading the local charge.
A little slice of the Left Bank in South Melbourne, Bellota will win you over with its intrepid wine list, charcuterie and cheese and sass-packed service.
Educating the good people of Toorak on the wonders of natural and biodynamic wines, the folks at Toorak Cellars have enough tried-and-tested examples to keep everybody happy.
One of the best bars in the west, Seddon Wine Store is part wine store, part neighbourhood bar. Choose a boutique label to enjoy in the store, or grab a bottle to go.
At this intimate, cultured Thornbury bar, you can practise your Italian in the bathrooms, where language lessons are piped through the speakers. Drinks are sourced solely from the Boot, and snacks of fritto misto (golden-fried seafood) arrive quick-smart on the table.
One of Melbourne's original bottle shop/bars, this Mediterranean marvel boasts produce-driven dishes and an intrepid wine list.
At this charming Northcote local, there are biodynamic wines from Australia and Italy, plus thin-crust pizzas and a strong, traditional Italian focus.
In the spiritual home of Dame Edna Everage, Strangeloves puts the power firmly in the hand of the punters, by asking the first four guests to choose two reds and two whites. The price of each bottle is then divided by four to decide that day's by the glass list.