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Kirks Wine Bar
Patricia SofraOutside at Kirks Wine Bar.

Time Out Food & Drink Awards 2022: Best Wine Bar

These are the nominees for Best Wine Bar in the Time Out Melbourne Food & Drink Awards 2022

By Time Out in partnership with Tyro
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Melbourne’s love affair with the wine bar deserves to be immortalised on screen, in song or in a book of finely tuned haikus. As Australia’s early adopters of civilised drinking, we were sipping and swirling while other states languished at the mega-club stage of drinking evolution.

But we’ll keep the boasting to a minimum while revving our praise for Time Out’s best wine bar shortlist to a maximum. Celebrating some of the true legends of the industry as well as a smattering of pithy newcomers, it shows that the wine bar is a versatile beast indeed. Whether you’re after a glass of something red, white, orange or pink before heading on your way, or prefer to linger longer and add a meal to the equation, these 10 contenders have you covered.

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to their wine collections. Big or small, natural or traditional, Victorian, Australian or international: all we ask is that it’s delicious, and that they make drinking wine fun. Because a wine bar is about more than dutifully ticking the booze and food boxes. As The Castle’s Denis Dennuto might have said, it’s the vibe.

Our recipe for the perfect wine bar adds a requirement for excellent music, a rocking fitout, non-sneery service that makes even novice wine drinkers feel welcome and the kind of lighting that makes everyone 110 per cent more attractive.

Hitting all these KPIs, we present to you a shortlist well worth popping a cork for, in the spirit of celebration.

These are the nominees for Best Cocktail Bar.
These are the nominees for Best Casual Drinking Venue.
Love wine bars? Here are more of Melbourne's best.

Want more? Click here to view all the nominees in the Time Out Food & Drink Awards 2022.

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And the nominees are...

  • Bars
  • Armadale

The flowy linen smocks for sale at the shops of Armadale’s main drag want to seem casual, but there’s a self-consciousness to their boutique-ness. Not so at Auterra, where excellence is charmingly unassuming. Here, easy going neo soul plays and light streams in from the heritage shop windows over a beautiful but unfussy room in tones of white and deep red with accents of copper. It’s an inviting space, made more so by the warm greeting of the staff. 

  • Bars
  • Wine bars
  • Fitzroy
  • price 2 of 4

We know, we know: we crowned Bar Liberty the Best Wine Bar (and our Bar of the Year) back in 2018. Why are they the cream of the crop again this year? Despite the changing of the guard, Bar Liberty’s aspirations are as clear as ever. The team want this bar to be the first stop for locals and tourists who want a world-class wine experience. And boy, do they deliver. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Carlton
  • price 2 of 4

Carlton Wine Room is first and foremost, shockingly, a wine room. When you’re seated, the crew hands you a one-pager of aperitif and cocktails before you even see the food menu. This is an old-school dining sensibility that has been lost in the casual dining culture of today. One does have to whet one’s appetite, after all. The full wine list contains 100 bottles. This isn’t particularly large, but this is one of the most approachable, decipherable and balanced wine lists we have come across. Balance means having something for everyone: the traditionalist, the new-wave drinker, the newbie drinker, the flashy drinker.

  • Bars
  • Wine bars
  • Carlton North
  • price 2 of 4

The knee-knocking seating of Gerald's nods to the intimate neighbourhood bars of Europe, as does the hand-scrawled menu that changes on a whim. This petite bar packs a 200-plus strong list of wines, so ask the staff what's on as the by-the-glass menu changes depending on what's open at the time. That’s the appeal of Gerald’s – you can pull up a chair, have a chat with the all-over-it staff and find out what is new with the food and drinks today, and know that whatever you order, it will be great.

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  • Restaurants
  • Korean
  • South Melbourne

Between Covid-19, the great sandwich/bagel boom and the growing disinterest in brunch, cafés have not had it easy the last few years. But rather than let the climate get them down, the James team took the transition in stride, shifting gears to an all-day, Korean-inspired menu led by chef Sangsoo Kim – and they’re all the better for it. To call a dining experience faultless is a big call, but our time at James is the closest we've come in a while. 

  • Bars
  • Wine bars
  • Melbourne
  • price 2 of 4

In the fluctuating mix of cafés and restaurants that have periodically occupied one end of Hardware Lane to the other end of Hardware Street, Kirk’s has remained a constant. The pandemic hasn’t prompted it to switch to a bookings system as it has so many others – it’s still walk-in only, and you’ll struggle to get a table even on a wintery Tuesday night. Rugged-up patrons aren’t deterred by the lack of indoor seating – a heater radiates onto them as they sit shoulder-to-shoulder in a Parisian-style terrace seating.

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  • Bars
  • Wine bars
  • Collingwood

Melbourne's beating heart must surely be a wine bar. The city's finest purveyors of this integral aspect of our city have kept up standards with their only northside venture, the Moon in Collingwood. Owners Mark Nelson and Lyndon Kubis stand by the adage ‘if it ain't broke' with their foolproof business model of part-wine bar, part-bottle shop. The proof is in the pinot, and the Moon follows its older siblings the Alps, Toorak Wine Cellars and Milton Wine Shop to deliver a curated selection of wine that you can have takeaway or drink in. 

  • Bars
  • Wine bars
  • Fitzroy North
  • price 2 of 4

What’s the purpose of a neighbourhood wine bar? Should it be cosy and convivial? Exciting and challenging? Flexibile on options, from a quick after-work drink to full-blown four-course meal? What about all of the above? Neighbourhood Wine is just that, and Fitzroy North wouldn’t be the same without it. The second-floor venue overlooking Nicholson Street is all about Euro-classic warmth. Far from the cookie-cutter blonde wood and funky light fixtures that abound in Melbourne, Neighbourhood Wine’s darker colouring of antique wallpaper and dim light envelop the room in a hug of old-world charm and genuine character. 

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  • Bars
  • Fitzroy North

Public Wine Shop is the very model of the modern-era wine bar. There’s soul spinning on the turntable, rows of wine bottles lining the brick wall and a communal table to rule them all. Altogether, it adds up to that incalculable feeling that you’ve somehow stumbled into a mate’s place rather than the new haunt of one of Australia’s most promising chefs. With award-winning sommelier Campbell Burton as its owner and an impressive quiver of natural, organic, oxidative and all-round minimally messed-with wines at the disposal of staff (including Sarah Fitzsimmons, co-founder of Hobart’s equally impressive Dier Makr), it could live and die on the booze alone.

  • Bars
  • Brunswick

In Melbourne hospitality, there are two primary camps – the traditionalists and the trend-chasers. When well-executed and willing to evolve, the latter can be stellar. But it can also quickly become a parody of itself, making the rounds on niche inner-north meme accounts before fading into oblivion as the new hotspot swoops in to steal its place. Full disclosure: we predicted Waxflower would follow that path. With not-so-savoury online reviews and a too-cool reputation, it seemed the wine-cum-listening-bar’s best days were behind it. But after visiting for dinner, we confidently rescind any doubts.

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