A lot of venues like to invest their money in the wrong things. A shiny, new place will open with Edison light bulbs; big, flashy neon signs; imported Italian marble fashioned into a custom workspace; and limited-edition European furniture that has bobbed over on a ship. More often than not, these venues forget all about stock, staff training and the functionality of the space. This is not the case for Atlas Vinifera.
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. The team haven’t accepted money from a wealthy silent partner or teamed up with a development company in exchange for cheap rent or a free fit-out. This means that while the product offered is of a very high standard, you might not be sitting in the trendiest space you’ve ever seen.
The bar looks like a bottle shop that’s had seats put in the middle of it. The walls are painted a shade of blue that battles with the orange glow from the lights, and old wine barrels are repurposed as tables. A handful of chairs are scattered near the fridges for extra seating, and nothing in particular screams ‘dark, sexy wine bar’.This is not the place to be seen, and yet, Atlas Vinifera is constantly full. Foot traffic is heavy, whether it be from the younger crowd popping in to buy a bottle or a six pack on the way home, a couple on a Tinder date, or the odd regular tasting through this week’s wine at the bar by the glass.
Owners Abby Moret and Rabiya Oeztan have been around long enough to know what is important. They’re knowledgeable and friendly without seeming overbearing or pretentious, which is a quality the locals keep coming back for. They’ve got an incredible knack for knowing when you want to geek out about the wines and when you want to have a quiet drink without commentary.
There are always 20 or so wines open by the glass, representing locals and internationals, with a preference towards small producers. At the moment, you could be drinking a tense and well-structured 2015 Jean Dauvissat Chablis for $16 with notes of flinty minerality, lemon zest and a nutty finish; or a fleshy, 2017 Punt Road Gamay from the Yarra Valley at $13 with notes of ripe cherries, spice and fine tannins. A trip to the wine wall or fridge could award you with very well-priced grower Champagne or a lesser known biodynamic number from Chile. Add $10 to the retail price, and you can pop that bottle with full service in the store. Food is minimal due to a lack of kitchen, with a selection of cheeses and charcuterie staff slice at the bar, as well as anchovies, olives, nuts and bags of truffle-flavoured crisps.
It’s clear that the team at Atlas Vinifera pride themselves on simplifying the wine experience and doing away with the bullshit. It’s no wonder they’ve been embraced by all of Richmond with wide, open arms.