From beloved, dependable classics that have been around for decades to those that opened within the last few months, wine bars abound in Melbourne, Australia. While there are several essentials in the city itself (including the hallowed City Wine Shop), the majority of dynamic wine bars are on the north side—in neighborhoods like Brunswick, Collingwood, Carlton and Fitzroy. More than cozy spaces to sip on thoughtfully made and carefully selected wines, these spots also offer incredible food and vibrant atmospheres that can turn a quick snack into a long, boozy lunch; a casual hangout into a romantic date; or an evening drink into an all-night adventure.
Courtesy of Waxflower
Located just off Lygon Street in Brunswick, Waxflower is part wine bar and part cafe, and draws plenty of inspiration from Tokyo-style listening bars. Indoors there are rows and rows of vinyl and custom speakers behind the bar (replete with a built-in DJ booth), where staff members serve an ever-changing list of low-intervention wines, as well as local beers and coffee. Outside there’s an impressive street-side seating area. Alongside the wines, the food stands out. The kitchen—helmed by head chef Damon McIvor—offers up meticulous snacks with a focus on seasonal ingredients, like smoked cod rillettes, kangaroo skewers, pastas, cured meats, anchovies, fried peppers and more. If you’re still not done, head up Lygon Street a few blocks to Bar Romantica for late-night pizza and cocktails.
With a firm focus on low-intervention processes, the wine at Neighborhood Wine—opened in 2013 by husband and wife team Simon Denman (wine director) and Almay Jordaan (chef)—spans from delectably easy-drinking to appealingly off-kilter. The impressive, thoughtfully selected wines rotate weekly and the drinks menu includes local delights like Autonomy’s Davo Plum Aperitivo (made with Australian Davidsons Plums) and Melbourne Sake. The daily food menu reflects the seasons, with everything from roast kabocha squash to heirloom tomatoes with pickled jalapeños and mint. Neighborhood’s unassuming facade gives way to a plush, kitsch-leaning interior that feels like a family dining room. The team recently opened a Brunswick East sibling location called Old Palm Liquor, which happens to be very close to Waxflower, making a visit to both especially easy.
Located on Johnston St in Fitzroy, Bar Liberty boasts a vast number of wines (from pet-nats to jazzy oranges and structured reds) but also offers up cocktails and booze-free libations that will appeal to those less excited by wine. The snacks available here also cater to all kinds of palates with plenty of options for vegetarians, including fried cauliflower with nutmeg salt; pumpkin with macadamia, pepitas and purslane; and sourdough flatbread with various dips and toppings. The vibe here is more industrial than cozy, but feels laidback and welcoming just the same.
Public Wine Shop
Whether stopping by to grab a bottle to go or settling in for an evening, guests at Public Wine Shop will find the same impressive labels available. Close to the ever-popular Edinburgh Gardens, the space is minimal (whitewashed bricks and timber are visible between the bottles lining the walls) but sunny and bright. Dishes are simple (but don’t be fooled by their minimal menu), wine-friendly and change often; expect snacks like tinned sardines with bread, oysters and crab capellini. There are no reservations and the shop is small, so consider arriving early—especially if you’re dining with a group larger than three or four.
With 20+ wines available by the glass on any given day, Marion on Gertrude St is part of chef and restaurateur Andrew McConnell’s family of venues, which also includes Cumulus Inc, Cutler & Co (next door to Marion), Supernormal and the Builders Arms. An Italian-leaning menu offers more than just snacks; there are hearty and larger dishes like Port MacDonnell lobster, rib-eye steaks, pastas and roast chicken available here. Everything pairs well with the delectable wines. Speak with the knowledgable staff and allow them to help navigate the extensive range of approachable to enjoyably odd options. Book in advance, because tables are in high demand.
Congress opened on the corner of Collingwood’s Peel and Wellington Streets in 2017 to praise that kept growing louder. The first location in twins Katie and Michael McCormack’s Milieu Hospitality, it’s a multi-level space that balances industrial elements like concrete pillars and stainless steel with warm lighting and plants. There’s a long list of wines by the bottle, several by the glass, cocktails, apéritifs and digestifs—all of which pair nicely with the delicious food. Guests can nosh on share plates (think oysters, salads, peppers and the ilk) and larger dishes (from barbecued baby snapper to pastas), but carnivores have to try the signature pig’s head sanga with green mustard. Katie sadly passed away recently at just 39 years old, but Michael and the team pledged to carry on her legacy at Congress, Future Future and Lagotto.
One of Melbourne’s most beloved places for sipping wine, walk-in-only Gerald’s Bar has been a neighborhood favorite in Carlton North since 2006. With 200+ bottles on the list and plenty by the glass, there are low-intervention and skin-contact options as well as plenty of classics. Open seven days a week from 5PM, Gerald’s offers up snacks like cured meats and fresh bread, but also has a full kitchen whose menu changes daily and focuses on fresh, seasonal produce. The mood is playful and laidback, and perhaps put best by the team: “At Gerald’s, sometimes the music is too loud, sometimes the wine flows too freely, sometimes the food runs out, but have no fear, we’ll do it again tomorrow and the next day and the day after.”
Hero image courtesy of Neighborhood Wine