When winter sets in, it just feels right to order a glass of red. Melbourne’s mid-century European heritage has left its mark on the city, with intimate wine bars on every block. Waiter, bring us a bottle of your finest, pronto!
Heartattack and Vine
Why wouldn’t you want to drink at a wine bar named after a Tom Waits album? Heartattack and Vine is a stylish but casual Italian at the northern end of Lygon Street opposite Cinema Nova and just up from Readings. Park yourself at the long bar for a drink before or after a film and graze on a delicious selection of cicchetti in the evening, with chef’s options for vegies and vegans. The porchetta roll at lunch time is famed, and specialty coffee is served until close.
Carlton Wine Room
A veritable who’s who of Melbourne hospitality royalty are behind the newly refurbished Carlton Wine Room. The seasonal Mod Oz and European menu favours gentle flavours that pair well with wine, so head elsewhere for your chili fix. The wine list is wide-ranging, with a leaning towards Italian drops. Take a shortcut and ask for the staff bottle to see what’s drinking well on the day. Book the bluestone cellar for a private party, or explore the upstairs dining rooms.
A much-loved Melbourne institution since its inception in 1995, Punch Lane has a chalkboard menu stocked with European seasonal classics that make you feel like home. The dark wood interior is especially cosy in winter, and with an expansive wine list that takes in old and new world varietals, this laneway legend off the top of Little Bourke Street is a great spot to idle away the hours with friends.
The basement bar beneath Punch Lane, Juliet, has a speakeasy vibe. It’s only open Thursday to Saturday evenings from 4.30pm, so it feels like a rare treat to pull up a pew here. You’ll want to order the raclette, a Swiss style cheese that is grilled to develop a nutty, full sweet flavour with a chewy crust, then scraped oozing and delicious to your table, alongside house cured meats and sourdough. Thursday is jazz night, but every night Juliet celebrates female artisans and producers. The wine list is notable for stocking (nearly) all women winemakers. Cheers to that.
Upstairs from street level Cumulus Inc on Flinders Lane is the stylish Cumulus Up. A wine bar that celebrates European style, the drinks menu stretches to 36 pages with in-depth explorations of regions and varietals. The climate controlled cellar houses eye-wateringly expensive tipples, and more approachable wines by the glass. Andrew McConnell makes the snacks, so you’re in good hands. Refine your palette the first Saturday of the month with City Cellar Door, an afternoon wine tasting series. Your gold coin entry goes to Oz Harvest.
Raking in awards left, right and centre, Embla is an unassuming drinking den with a wine list encompassing the unusual, from small producers to natural, organic and bespoke blends. You can book for lunch, but dinner is walk up only, so be prepared to wait for a table. Think house made, seasonal and rustic food.
City Wine Shop
A Spring Street legend and sister to The European restaurant next door, City Wine Shop is simple in its MO. Perch at the bar for a pre-theatre wine by the glass and a tasty morsel to keep you going. Or check out the wine racks to the left with bottles you can take away. A silver service private dining room is available for hire out the back. Revel in the dark wood panelling and imagine you’re somewhere very romantic as you sip on a nebbiolo.
Kirk’s Wine Bar
A few blocks west of its City Wine Shop sibling, Kirk’s Wine Bar inhabits an historic corner building with a classic continental bistro feel. Swing past for a croque-monsieur on your way into the office, or drop by after work for house made charcuterie and a glass of syrah. Its motto is “in vino veritas”, Latin for “in wine, truth”, and we’ll drink to that.
Willows and Wine
Put your phone away and settle in for some analogue good times with your pals at Willows and Wine. Solo missions are also well catered for, as they offer both board games and a well stocked bookshelf with titles available to buy. Book clubs are a regular at this place. The wine list is tightly edited so you don’t need to spend ages working out what to drink, and the menu is either meat or cheese. You can also order in delivery from menus behind the bar. Just delightful.
Jimmy Watsons hails from a bygone era and has been keeping punters happy since it opened on Lygon Street in the 1930s. Enter from the rear Jimmy Watsons Lane to discover the Wolf’s Lair & Drinking Haus & Tree Tops, an intimate bohemian upstairs bar and outdoor rooftop. Sharing plates and pizzas are the go here. Or try the Thin Red Line, a velvety enclave with booths for your crew of besties.
Cuff Food & Wine
Looking for some good-old fashioned hospitality? Cuff Food & Wine is the perfect spot. Nestled in Leicester building on Flinders Lane, you’ll almost get lost in the intricate design of Florentine arches and high ceilings. If you think it can’t get more Melbourne than that, call up your crew of connoisseurs and enjoy a bottle of pinot from their fine wine list. Their lunch time fave, crispy-skinned salmon with pine nuts, pesto and pears is also available on Friday nights to help you ease into the weekend.
The new offering from the team behind Higher Ground, art deco foyer café Liminal, is a must visit foodie destination on Collins Street. Their strawberries, fig and stracciatella on fruit toast will make that 7am meeting less daunting, while their variety of Australian drops, are perfect for a post-work wind-down.
Agostino is the final, long-awaited, piece of the newly refurbished King & Godfree puzzle. Their temperature-controlled wine cellar features local and Italian drops, but the cream of the crop is their barolo. Draped in all white cult fashion, their servers are as sharp as their food menu. Try their spaghettini with bugs, crab and chili or culatello (a rare salumi) with salted persimmon.